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THURSDAY, MARCH 8, 2007
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EDITORIAL

Two certainties amid uncertain economic times

Gov. Bob Riley has most of the nation's economists in his corner as he presents his want list to the Legislature.

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress last week that the economy may strengthen this year. Private-sector economists and policymakers also predict that the economic boom that began in 2001 will continue. They estimate the economy will grow 2.5 percent to 3 percent for the remainder of this year and 2.75 percent to 3 percent in 2008.

Then there is former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan.

The retired chairman says there is a "one-third probability" of a recession this year.

In his State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature on Tuesday night, Gov. Riley recalled the early years of his first administration. He remembered how difficult it was for the state to meet obligations because tax revenue took a tumble when the last economic boom ended after 10 years.

Mr. Greenspan, once the authoritative voice of the nation's economic well being, said the current expansion won't last 10 years. "Ten-year recoveries have been part of a much broader global phenomenon. The historically normal business cycle is much shorter," he said this week.

This expansion is likely to be much shorter, too, he predicted.

Most items on the governor's checklist are worthy of passage, but would doing so set the state up for another financial disaster?

Can the state spend record amounts while handing out tax cuts? It's a matter of which economists you believe.

Two of his proposals won't cost the state a dime to enact.

Legislators should follow the governor's lead and ban PAC-to-PAC transfers of campaign donations. They also should require the army of lobbyists in Montgomery to report all they spend on public officials.

There is room for reasonable debate on the tax cuts and spending proposals, but legislators have no reason to not ban PAC transfers and not to require lobbyists to account for their spending.

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