Boothe backs bulk of Riley’s proposals

Published 10:07 pm Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Troy’s local legislator said he is on board with Gov. Bob Riley’s proposals to stimulate the economy with tax breaks and keep vital education programs, at least for the most part.

After Riley’s State of the State address to kick off the 2009 Legislative Session Tuesday night, however, Rep. Alan Boothe (D-Troy) said he still doesn’t have a feel for just how the year will play out.

“The governor has outlined a bunch of stuff, and I agree with him in what he said for the most part,” Boothe said.

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Riley outlined a detailed Economic Recovery Plan to legislators gathered in the chambers Tuesday, after he first reminded representatives and senators of the state’s bounce out of similar economic hardships in 2003.

In the recovery plan, Riley proposed tax breaks for businesses who hire unemployed residents and for those who create jobs in counties with high unemployment rates.

Boothe said he would be willing to support such legislation. “There’s got to be something like this is place,” Boothe said. “It’s something I can support.”

But, Boothe said he doesn’t fully support Riley’s plans to offer tax breaks to some industries in the state. “I don’t think anyone’s ready for an (extra) tax, but we have industries in this state not being taxed,” Boothe said.

Riley also advocated strongly to cut no funds for public education’s reading, math and science initiatives and distance learning programs. “I agree with him, and I’m pleased he wants to keep AMSTI (Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative) and the reading initiative,” Boothe said. “I agree with him 100 percent and plan to support that.”

But, still facing some $800 million in education cuts, Boothe said he isn’t sure what else would have to be slashed to keep these programs alive. Some ideas, he said, are eliminating transportation or decreasing the five extra school days added through the years, but Boothe said he doesn’t necessarily support these proposals.

Riley also told the Legislature, he strongly advocates an ethics reform act to try to restore accountability of the state government. “Each year I’ve asked for ethics reform,” Riley said. “This year, I hope the negative attitudes caused by scandals will finally prompt the Legislature to act.”

Another area Riley hit hard on was expanding gambling or enacting new taxes on gambling in the state, saying it would only bring in less than 1-percent profit to the state budget.

Boothe said he, like Riley, is not in favor of expanding gambling in Alabama, but he does think there should be more taxes on entities already in place. “I’m not a proponent of expanding gambling, but I do think what’s already here should be taxed,” Boothe said. “It’s well over a half-billion dollars that could be generated from that.”

Pike County’s other representative Sen. Wendell Mitchell (D-Luverne) could not be reached for comment following the State of the State address Tuesday night.