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TUESDAY, JANUARY 31, 2006
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EDITORIAL

Cyclical economy makes budgeting precarious

Of course, attempting to spend $500 million for school capital improvements is politics.

And so is the Legislature's effort to re-establish the pork money which individual members may dole out as they see fit.

This is an election year. Duh.

Gov. Bob Riley wants to spend all of the surplus for much-needed school projects and Democrats want a little for legislators to spread around as "community service grants," which is better known as pork money.

The Alabama Supreme Court stopped legislators from doling out money in patronage fashion last year. But handing out a few thousand here and a few there is good politics.

So is building and repairing schools.

But that old proration bug keeps coming up amid these good intentions and getting re-elected. According to the Alabama Education Association that wants some of the money for its members, proration often follows election years because the politicians overspend.

The governor says the state has enough rainy-day funds from the oil and gas trust as an adequate hedge against proration. He may be right, but he could be wrong.

With school funding depending so heavily on revenue from sales taxes, making a sound budget is difficult every year. But in election years, the folks in office spend like next year is going to be even better. They sometimes end up spending more than the state can afford.

The governor blames AEA Executive Secretary Paul Hubbard for stalling his proposal. But Mr. Hubbard, who also has an official role in the state Democratic Party, knows the ugly side of proration better than the governor. He's been through it too many times.

Let's restore the hedge funds fully while the state has the money, then spend the amount that is left.

That's what most prudent households would do.

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