Budget predictions are hard to believe

By Staff
The Tuscaloosa News
Does Gov. Bob Riley know something no one else on Goat Hill in Montgomery does? Or is he just engaging in wishful thinking?
In his annual State of the State address — his last of eight as two-term governor — Riley told the 139 sitting members of the House and Senate gathered at the Alabama Capitol for the beginning of the 2010 regular session of the Alabama Legislature that his two major budgets will contain no cuts despite the dire economic prospects for the new year.
He even predicted $400 million more, an 8 percent growth spurt, for the education budget, to around $5.8 billion, and a General Fund that will hover around its current $2 billion.
After passing the Legislature following what are certain to be contentious debates, both budgets will go into effect Oct. 1, a little more than three months before the lame-duck governor leaves office after the November general election to pick his successor.
Riley's rosy predictions fly in the face of the Legislature's own calculations, which forecast big drops in tax revenue as the economy struggles to recover from the worst recession since the Great Depression.
And dwindling amounts of stimulus money from Congress — you know, that federal largesse that Republicans like Riley love to criticize as irresponsible, while desperately using it to shore up their own fiscal houses of cards — may or may not become available.
House Speaker Seth Hammett, an Andalusia Democrat, seemed a bit taken aback by Riley's pie-in-the-sky rhetoric.
Or as House Education Appropriations Committee chairman Richard Linsdsey, D-Centre, put it more succinctly, Riley “is writing a check that may not be good.”
Meanwhile, does anyone really think that President Barack Obama and his administration will have easy sailing in passing a new stimulus bill in this election year?
The bill hasn't even been formally proposed and could be a political strategic blunder if it ever does see the light of day.
It might be enlightening to ask Riley, who served three terms in the U.S. House as a conservative Republican, if he would vote for that stimulus money he is counting on now if he were still in the House.
Our bet is he would say no.
Sometimes politics verges on a Lewis Carroll fantasy.

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