Riley talks budget, gaming, and education in final State address

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Governor Bob Riley says the state "can survive"  this budget year without "doom and gloom," and told lawmakers to avoid the temptation to find new money from gambling during his final State of the State speech.

Governor Riley combined optimism with tough talk, saying his budget proposals wouldn't cut funding for state agencies despite forecasts of a 30% deficit, and said his education budget would increase funding for schools by as much as $400 million.

"The lobbyists and gambling interests have told you over and over that we must find new revenue somewhere, or the sky's going to fall," Riley said. "Ladies and gentlemen, that's what we call in Clay County, a bunch of bull."

Riley says his plan depends on a growing economy, more federal help, and passage of a charter schools plan, none of which are certain to happen. He said even with the state in dire need of more money, expanding and taxing gaming like electronic bingo isn't the answer.

"I can't imagine anyone who thinks the best way to help our economy is to have Alabamians lose billions of dollars gambling," Riley said.

The governor got applause from both sides of the aisle when he addressed the state's ailing prepaid tuition program (PACT).

"One more thing about promises, I believe the state made a commitment to the families enrolled in PACT and we need to work together."

"I'm focused on that as I think Democrats and Republicans are focused on it, so I think there's gonna be a lot of work there to solve that problem," said Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom. "I see that as a priority issue."