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Challenges abound for state lawmakers

As the Alabama Legislature gets under way this year, difficult decisions lie ahead.

Gov. Bob Riley, in his State of the State address on Tuesday, urged lawmakers to pass tax breaks to revitalize Alabama businesses and take a proactive stance to turning around the state’s economy, without raising taxes or expanding gambling.

With declining tax revenues, lawmakers are going to be hard pressed to leave education funding in tact, particularly programs that improve student performance, such as the AMSTI initiative or ACCESS and distance learning programs.

And with taxpayers and voters looking for leadership, for optimism, and for a sense of better days ahead, lawmakers have an ever-growing burden to provide the type of leadership our state sorely needs.

We hope they are up to the task.

Alabama has long enjoyed the benefits of a strong and diverse economy. And, to some extent, our state has been insulated from the worst of the national economic indicators.

We are insulated, yes, but not immune.

The leaves the governor and the lawmakers with the heady task of passing legislation that will guide our state through the months and years ahead. Protecting educational initiatives; trimming fat … and maybe even a little muscle … from state budgets; providing tax breaks and stimulus efforts for businesses and the economy; and finding new revenue streams are all part of the challenge.

Getting it done will require a focused and united effort, the willingness to put aside petty politics and political agendas, and a commitment to making difficult decisions.

We hope state leaders will be up to the challenge.