State future looking brighter?

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 14, 2010

Gov. Bob Riley presented a budget to legislators Wednesday based on federal stimulus dollars that haven’t been passed yet, one local representative just hopes he’s on track.

If all goes as Riley plans, the state will be in better shape financially than it was last year.

“I certainly hope he is right on top of that,” said Rep. Alan Boothe, D-Troy. “That would certainly be a benefit to us from the state.”

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The budgets to fund education and other state agencies were proposed using “Jobs for the Main Street Act” stimulus funds, which have been approved by the U.S. House and are awaiting passage in the Senate.

If those dollars come through, Riley proposes the state would have an Education budget that would go from $5.3 billion to $5.8 billion.

Likewise, the General Fund budget would grow from $2 billion to $2.3 billion, the Associated Press reports.

Riley said this money would help Alabama enter 2011 without reducing school employees or the level of most state services, the AP reports.

At the same time, however, Riley himself opposes the passage of additional stimulus money.

Boothe said he isn’t sure whether the Legislature will be able to count on this funding, but the money would surely be useful.

“In reality, we’ve been told by state experts we’re in dire straights here,” Boothe said. “If he is right, we are certainly better off than what we’ve been told.”

Sen. Wendell Mitchell, D-Luverne, said to propose a budget with money that hasn’t passed federally is bold.

“I find that to be a tenacious way to go about putting a budget together,” Mitchell said.

“I think the first thing the fiscal leaders of our legislators will want to do is make an inquiry into whether or not this is reality.”

If federal stimulus money doesn’t pass, the state will be faced with some of its hardest tasks yet in constructing the next year’s budgets.

*The Associated Press contributed to this report.