First Gubernatorial Debate: Fiscal Responsibility

Patricia Dedrick, Montgomery bureau chief for the Birmingham News:

Congress and the president have the ability to spend more money than the federal government takes in. This year's deficit, for example, is now projected at $165 billion. As governor, you would not have that luxury because the state constitution requires a balanced budget. How is a member of Congress, who voted for bills that cause deficit spending, prepared to deal with the tight physical constraints of Montgomery.

Congressman Riley:

One of the main reasons that I ran for Congress is someone told me one time that when my first granddaughter was born she was $167,000 in debt. I said, 'That's Immoral.' We can't have a system like that. One of the reasons I ran for congress is I wanted to balance the budget and my class is the first class to ever have a balanced budget in over 50 years and it really wasn't that complicated.

We said, if you don't spend more money than you took in, in 1996, and the economy grows three to four or five percent a year, you can grow yourself out of debt and you can balance the budget. It didn't take eight or ten years or twelve years. It took four years to balance the budget. That's the kind of fiscal responsibility I want to bring back here. That's the reason I have been talking about the ability to move money and set priorities and assess needs and you can't do that when 90 cents of every dollar of revenue that comes into this state is already earmarked. You're going to have to change the systems if we're ever going to be productive.

Patricia Dedrick:

Congressman, currently though the budget is out of balance by $165 billion and what kind of legislative support do you expect to get here in Montgomery for these initiatives, particularly un-earmarking funds?

Congressman Riley:

I think it comes back to the ability to have credibility with the legislature on both sides of the aisle. One of the things that George Bush has taught me is that if you don't get hung up on being a Republican or a Democrat, if you reach across that aisle, if you talk to the Republicans and to the Democrats and find people who share the same philosophy and ideology that your do, you can accomplish something. If you look at his educational coalition that he put together to pass an education bill that time it had Ted Kennedy on stage signing it with him.

You compare that to his economic stimulus package, a completely different group. That's what I want to do here. I want to build a team, Republicans and Democrats, to come in and change these things that have fundamentally held this state back for the last 30 or 40 years.

Governor Siegelman:

I would ask Congressman Riley to show me the money. He talks about un-earmarking money. You know I want to change the constitution to add money to education. I want to change the constitution so that we can give our children the kind of hope and future they deserve.

Mr. Riley talks about un-earmarking education dollars and giving it to state employees. He talks about un-earmarking DOT dollars and moving it over to education. This is like an ENRON shell game, and ENRON accounting game. You know you can't just move things like Mr. Riley from one side of the ledger to the other and keep two sets of books and expect it to balance. We have got to raise money for education and it's not going to happen by moving things from one side of the aisle to the other.