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Riley: tackle big issues

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley challenged state legislators to continue to tackle the big issues with bold ideas in order to make Alabama the state to which the future belongs during his State of the State address Tuesday night.

Riley said the government had accomplished great feats in the past seven years.

“We’ve accomplished so much in these last seven years,” Riley said. “But tonight our focus must remain on the future. So get ready – get ready to tackle a full agenda.”

Riley challenged the legislators to pledge to each other and the people of Alabama that during the final legislative session before the election season, that the focus would not be on trying to gain political advantage, but on doing things for the people’s advantage.”

The Governor spoke first about the upcoming budgets proclaiming that the economic situation for the general fund budget and school systems wasn’t as bad as the projections.

“The lobbyists and the gambling interests have told you over and over that we must find new revenue, somewhere, or the sky’s going to fall,” Riley said. “Ladies and gentlemen, that’s what we in Clay County would call a crock.” Riley told legislators the budget he was proposing would give General Fund agencies the same amount of funding they are currently receiving, and would receive no cuts.

“In fact, there is the potential for them to receive an increase of up to 4 percent,��� Riley said. “And in the education budget, that budget will increase funding for schools by over $400 million.”

Government efficiency was is the second important topic the Governor addressed.

“This recession has been an opportunity for our government to innovate, to streamline, and to think of ways to spend dollars more wisely,” Riley said.

“And we have. Today our state government is leaner. We’ve reduced the number of state employees and asked them to do more with less.

“We are living within our means like families all across Alabama. But let’s remember, tonight there are a lot of families our there facing much, much more difficult situations,” Riley said.

“Families who can’t even make ends meet anymore. And ladies and gentlemen, that’s why we must take real action – right now – to get our economy moving again.”

Riley urged lawmakers to pass legislation that would encourage companies to hire unemployed workers, which he said would offer and incentive to create jobs in counties with the highest unemployment rates.

“The first proposal is a $1,500 tax credit to jump-start new jobs,” Riley said.

“A proposal that an independent economist projects will create 6,000 new jobs.

“The second part of our recovery plan is a tax credit for new jobs in counties with the highest unemployment: a $1,500 incentive for each new job created to stimulate growth where jobs are needed the most, like the Black Belt and other rural counties.”

Riley said the state will never stop aggressively pursuing new jobs and helping existing industries expand.

Riley tackled illegal gambling in Alabama calling for legislators to keep gambling illegal.

“The devastating social costs of gambling – increased crime, addictions, domestic violence, bankruptcies, suicides, family breakdown and much more – are undeniable and well documented,” Riley said.

“Now I ask you: who ultimately pays for all these problems? The casino operators? Not a chance. They’re making money hand over fist off this misery.”

“If you really do want to bring more education dollars into our state, then join me in fighting to allow public charter schools in Alabama,” Riley said.

“They will tell you that charter schools take money away from public schools. But what they won’t tell you is charter schools are public schools.

Another issue the governor tackled was ethics reform.

“Why can’t we work together when it comes to ethics reform?,” Riley said.

“We should, because accountability isn’t a partisan issue.