Gubernatorial issues: education, ethics

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 6, 2002

BNI Newswire

Alabama’s gubernatorial candidates have hit the ground running with the next leg of the campaign, focusing at first on two main issues: education and ethics.

But both Don Siegelman and Bob Riley also began the day after their primary victories with economic development visits.

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Siegelman flew to Korea early Wednesday morning, while Riley made campaign stops at two manufacturing plants ­ Wellborne Cabinet in his native Ashland and Purcell Industries in Sylacauga.

Siegelman, beginning with his victory speech Tuesday night in Montgomery, outlined his plans to raise more money for education, which include the proposal of a lottery.

"We support more dollars for education," Siegelman told supporters Tuesday night. "Bob Riley does not. We believe education should be funded properly. Bob Riley believes education should be cut."

In 1998, Siegelman rode to victory in the general election on a promise to try to establish a lottery to pay for a scholarship fund similar to Georgia’s Hope scholarship. The lottery was defeated two years later, but Siegelman’s new lottery plan would directly fund schools.

Detractors, including Riley, oppose a lottery on moral grounds ­ but some people, including failed GOP hopeful Steve Windom, have said a lottery would not raise enough money to make up for education shortfalls in the first place.

"When he said he didn’t have a plan B, he meant it," Riley told supporters Tuesday night.

In the 1998 campaign and during the following year’s push for a lottery vote, Siegelman said he did not have another plan to raise funds for education or the scholarship program.

Funding for education has been a hot topic in the past year, since lower-than-expected tax collections forced proration of the education budget.

But the state board of education is also faced with a continuing problem with equity funding in education ­ a topic neither gubernatorial candidate has specifically addressed yet.

Riley has pointed out that education spending increased $1.5 billion between 1993 and 2000, and he wants to appoint a blue-ribbon panel to address why spending for students has not matched that pace.

Siegelman, meanwhile, has had ethics problems in the past year, an opportunity Riley seized on Tuesday night.

The people of Alabama deserve a governor who is honest and will go to Montgomery and work for you and not his buddies," Riley said.

Siegelman’s administration has been accused of unfair bid practices. All of the GOP candidates for governor criticized Siegelman over the allegations.