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An upbeat address
Lawmakers pleased with Riley's speech, but still have concerns

By M.J. Ellington
mjellington@decaturdaily.com (334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — Area lawmakers, both Democrat and Republican, called Gov. Bob Riley's State of the State address upbeat. But some had concerns about the General Fund budget.

Riley did not mention the state's General Fund budget during his speech, focusing instead on funding for education. The General Fund funds most state non-education agencies.

Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said he is pleased about Riley's proposed teacher pay raise, his pledge to pass the strongest immigration laws in the country and his proposed small-business incentives. Orr will sponsor Riley's PAC-to-PAC bill in the Senate and at least one of the governor's immigration bills.

Rep. Bill Dukes, D-Decatur, said there were no surprises in the governor's speech. Dukes said Riley's proposals on ethics reform have the best chance to pass. Dukes is less enthusiastic about Riley's proposed middle-class tax cuts, and he said he is concerned about agencies funded by the General Fund.

Dukes said it is important to make sure we know the money is there for the tax cuts and not just count on economic growth to help make up the difference in revenue.

Rep. Micky Hammon, R- Decatur, called Riley's proposals achievable. "I can't imagine a better State of the State," Hammon said.

Sen. Tom Butler, D-Madison, said Riley's targeted tax cuts will be good for the economy. He also said Riley's ethics reform bills will get attention in the Senate. Butler said he may ask for a roll-call vote on the ethics bills this year. Ethics reform bills that passed the House for several straight years have yet to clear the Senate.

Rep. Jody Letson, D-Hillsboro, called Riley's speech inspirational, but he had concerns. "It was good to hear that about the education budget," Letson said, adding that the General Fund will be much harder to deal with.

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