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Budgets, schools top state of state address

Published 4:15pm Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Setting up a likely fight with legislative Democrats and the Alabama Education Association, Gov. Robert Bentley said Tuesday night that he will support legislation to create charter schools.
But in his state of the state address, Bentley also laid out an austere budget plan that would consolidate certain state agencies in an effort to trim expenses. Bentley also said he would not raise taxes.
Bentley said he will support legislation to create a limited number of public charter schools.
“It’s time for all of us to stop pointing fingers and placing blame for the problems we face in education,” he said. “It’s time we come together and lend a hand to find real solutions, because there is nothing we cannot solve by working together.”
Bentley said the state’s General Fund will have 25 percent less money for the next fiscal year.
“We must reduce the size and scope of government and we have already begun this process,” he said. “I will propose legislation that consolidates a number of state agencies. We will modernize outdated systems within state government by taking advantage of the latest technology to save 100 million dollars over 10 years. We will streamline our licensing procedures which will produce greater efficiency and significant savings for taxpayers.”
But Bentley said his budget would protect the Alabama Department of Public Safety and Department of Human Resources and would “not cut one penny” from the Department of Corrections. “Not one single prisoner will be set free due to a lack of funds,” he said.
In education, Bentley said he would give public schools more flexibility to use funds.
“I will propose The School Flexibility Act of 2012, which will allow more decision-making at the local level,” he said. “Working with the Legislative leadership, we will give local school systems the ability to develop their own innovative strategies, free from state or federal bureaucracy.“
Bentley also said he wants to focus on improving roads and bridges in Alabama through a federal bond program.
“We have the ability to finance a major infrastructure program,” he said. “We will work with local leaders to identify what roads need repair and we will get them fixed as soon as possible. With the use of GARVEE Bonds we can achieve this without raising taxes or taking money from our state savings account. These can be issued as needs are identified.”
The beginning of his speech focused on jobs created since Bentley took office, which he counted at 41,000.

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