Montgomery, AL – Governor Riley's State of the State address left different impressions on state legislators. And despite the request in the governor's speech for them to let politics stand down for a while, their differences in opinion were mostly drawn along party lines. Alabama Public Radio's Gina Smith reports from Montgomery.
Republican Senator Bradley Byrne openly praised Governor Riley's plans for the state.
I thought it was a grand slam, the very best political speech I've heard a leader in Alabama make in my lifetime. He proposed changes that can move our state forward for a generation, and we can do it without raising taxes by using this surplus that we have right now and by making some very considered decisions about the General Fund.
Senate Democrat Roger Bedford agreed the governor gave a good speech. But he said it lacked a clear plan.
I think he gives a great speech, he's a good guy. But he's short on specifics, and he's unrealistic in his expectations, and that's why nobody's seen this budget, not the Democrats, not the Republicans, and certainly not the taxpayers.
House Democrat John Knight was less critical, but he agreed the governor failed to give specifics on how to finance the general fund budget.
I can't put the numbers together, that's my problem with what has been presented tonight. The governor, he didn't get into any specifics in terms of the budget, talked very little about the General Fund, he emphasized the Education budget more than anything else. And, as you know, we have a surplus. He have some real problems as relates to our state agencies and funding those agencies, and those are the issues that, as leaders, we're going to have to address in this session of the legislature.
But Knight said he wanted to reserve final judgment on the governor's budget for when he has actually had the chance to see it.
I want to wait and see. Maybe he has something that I'm not familiar with or something that has never been proposed in the past, so I'm waiting to see exactly what his proposals are. I don't want to jump to the conclusions in terms of what is actually in the budget. I just know that we're looking at anywhere from two hundred to three hundred million dollars in the General Fund budget itself, and he didn't talk about those numbers at all.
Senate Democrat Gerald Dial said Governor Riley may not have given specifics, but he attributed that to the governor's limited time frame.
The time frame he had to work from, 30 minutes, I think he did a good job, he couldn't get much more detailed. And that's our job anyway, the legislature will take that, we'll look at the details. We'll have to determine what needs to be cut and what doesn't. But I think he did a great job tonight, and I'm proud of it and proud for him. And now we've got to roll up our sleeves as legislators and get to work.
Dial said he would look into the governor's plan to supply the general fund budget.
He laid out a real broad aspect of how he's going to improve education. I've just gotta go and look at the General Fund budget. He's said we're going to fund Medicaid, we're going to fund a lot of other things, and it's going to be a balanced budget. I gotta look and see where that money's coming from.
House Republican Mike Hubbard said he would take Governor Riley at his word that the budget could be balanced without new or increased taxes.
According to the governor, it can be. And he met with us a little bit before the State of the State and outlined it a little bit, and we're excited about it. I think he's done a brilliant job, made some tough choices, but I think this is a budget that the legislature should consider very strongly and be supportive of.
State Finance Director Jim Main will present the governor's General Fund budget today.
For Alabama Public Radio, I'm Gina Smith in Montgomery.