Outgoing Ala. AG blasts Gov. Riley's budget

Jessica M. Karmasek Oct. 4, 2010, 3:11pm


MONTGOMERY, Ala. (Legal Newsline) - Alabama Attorney General Troy King is once again taking aim at Gov. Bob Riley -- this time in an opinion piece.

King, in Sunday's edition of The Montgomery Advertiser, took jabs at Riley over the state's budget.

He said the governor is at fault for the state's current proration, which is what happens when state government is spending more money than it is taking in. The governor, King explains, is then required by law to cut spending enough so the state's checkbook will be balanced by the end of the year.

King goes back to Riley's Jan. 12 State of the State address, in which the governor said, "Let's begin by discussing our budgets. I know you've read the same dire predictions and heard the same horror stories that I have. You've heard nothing awaits us in this session but doom and gloom. The lobbyists and the gambling interests have told you over and over that we must find new revenue, somewhere, or the sky's going to fall.

Riley continues, "Ladies and gentlemen, that's what we in Clay County would call a crock. In the budget I'm sending you, General Fund agencies will receive the same amount of funding that they will be getting this year. No cuts. In fact, there is the potential for them to receive an increase of up to 4 percent. And in the education budget, that budget will increase funding for schools by over $400 million. No cuts for state agencies, more funding for our schools, without raising anybody's taxes. Now that does not sound like we have a crisis."

Last month -- less than nine months after announcing Alabama didn't have any financial problems -- Riley said in a statement he would have to prorate the state's education budget for a second time, this time by 2 percent, or another $113 million in cuts.

"These are not small amounts. These are not tiny budget errors that can be caused by an honest small mistake. These are huge amounts of money, major contradictions, and serious problems," King wrote. "This happened because Gov. Riley's budget went beyond deception; it was downright dishonest."

King said the governor presented, lobbied for and passed a budget that was "totally dependent" on the hope that President Barack Obama would provide Alabama with more stimulus money, or what the attorney general called "a welfare check."

King wrote in his op-ed that Riley is looking for someone to blame for "the financial fiasco he created."

Last month, when oil giant BP announced it had rejected the state's claim for tax losses resulting from the Gulf oil spill, Riley subsequently blamed the attorney general.

"The state's lawsuit against BP did not cause proration, though. Lawsuit or no lawsuit, BP never intended to voluntarily pay our state's claim," King wrote. "Just ask any of the tens of thousands of individuals and businesses who are still waiting for their claims to be paid. BP talks a good game, but they walk a crooked walk, and that is why I sued them."

The attorney general wrote that he warned residents and state officials that the company could not be trusted. "After all, BP is not a charitable foundation looking to make grants; it is a giant international corporation with an obligation to its stockholders to maximize and protect its profits, not to give them away," he wrote.

King said the governor is "desperate for a quick fix" and that he's allowed himself to be "manipulated" by the oil company.

He goes on to defend himself and the lawsuit he filed against BP for the state.

"If BP will not willingly pay Alabama what it is owed, a court must force them to do so. And the excuse that BP rejected Alabama's claim because we are suing them doesn't hold a drop of water. They have not paid the other Gulf coast states either -- states that haven't sued them, but have filed claims.

"Alabama should not settle for pennies on the dollar just to prop up Bob Riley's budget disaster until he leaves office in January," he wrote Sunday.

The lawsuit King's office filed will require "full accountability" from BP, King wrote.

He concludes by saying of Riley, "For a man who professes to despise gambling and who has spent untold millions of dollars and the last two years of his term in office raiding bingo parlors, Gov. Riley rolled the dice with the state's finances and lost."

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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