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THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 3, 2005
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EDITORIAL

Riley's State of the State address a glass half-filled

Gee, what a difference two years can make in state government. Remember when then-new governor, Bob Riley, tried unsuccessfully to sell a massive tax increase to propel the state forward so we would not always be last in every meaningful measure of progress?

Then, there was last year when the national economy spilled red ink all over the place, and the governor was scrambling for financial patches to ubiquitous problems.

But not this year, he said, in his State of the State address Tuesday night.

He talked of record education surplus dollars, balanced budgets, no tax increases and Alabama actually taking a lead in economic growth.

Alabama, he said, ranks fourth among the 50 states in employment growth, fourth in average annual pay growth and first in the variety of industry located in our state.

And for the second consecutive year, Southern Business and Development magazine named Alabama "State of the Year."

"To be No. 1 in this region is a great achievement for Alabama. Together, these states comprise the fourth largest economy in the world. On the economic front, the South leads the nation and Alabama leads the South," he said.

The other side of the picture is that the state's general fund has no growth and experts predict up to a $200 million deficit. As a result, department heads hoping to get back funds lost in last year's cuts are seeing their requests slashed again.

New Honda and Hyundai assembly plants skewed the overall picture, but why not take the positive and use it?

If Alabama is truly on fire with new jobs and investments, the state might grow its way out of financial misery and neglect. It's the only viable option because voters don't want more taxes to pay for needed reforms.

The governor probably irked education forces when he proposed a 4 percent pay raise, when they wanted 7 percent. But he's pledging more money to fund core and experimental programs.

The governor peddled more good than, perhaps, is justified in his State of the State account. But he sees a glimmer of hope based on reality, and that is good for Alabamians who tire of perpetual gloom.

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