Alabama Gov. Bob Riley, a Republican, presented a largely optimistic outlook to legislators in his state of the state speech Jan. 12, proclaiming dire forecasts for the state's budget situation "a crock."
"No cuts for state agencies, more funding for our schools, without raising anybody's taxes. Now that does not sound like we have a crisis. But it does sound like we have a great opportunity," Riley told the Democratic-controlled legislature.
The governor said the state is in good fiscal shape because officials there planned wisely. They slimmed down state government, used conservative revenue projections and used federal stimulus money, he said.
Riley was especially adamant in his opposition to "electronic bingo" machines to bring in more money for state government. The two-term governor said the devices were essentially slot machines. "These are slot machines pure and simple," he said, "and they are illegal for a reason: They are illegal because they're bad for our families, they're bad for taxpayers and they're bad for Alabama."
The governor, who is barred by term limits from seeking re-election this year, called on lawmakers to pass more tax credits for businesses that create new jobs. He also pushed for legislators to allow charter schools, arguing that Alabama could qualify for $200 million in federal funds if the schools were permitted.
Riley also renewed his push for a number of ethics reforms, which previously had been blocked by Democrats. "The people deserve action, not excuses. So I ask my friends in the majority to stop making excuses, stop playing political games and let these reforms come up for a vote," he said.