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Put pet projects aside for the state

To our surprise, the Legislature appears to be making serious headway on the 2004 General Fund and Education Budgets.

Why does this surprise us? We're surprised because so many legislators have so many pet projects that were set for zero funding. So many private and non-education related institutions were to receive zero funding.

This was ordered by Governor Bob Riley so education and other necessary state offices could receive closer to adequate funding. Gov. Riley "zeroed" out non-essential agencies and organizations.

Legislators bucked up and were ready to fight.

The battle lines were clearly drawn, and as Alabama politics go Š no one was backing down. Who would fire the "shot heard 'round the state?" Who would budge and set an example?

It sure wouldn't be the Legislature Š at least as a whole. They went against the governor's wishes and reinstated private institution funding at 50 percent and non-essential state agencies at 25 percent.

Heaven forbid a true necessity receive full funding.

But there was a glimmer of hope. Senator Vivian Davis Figures of Mobile amended the budget to eliminate funding to one of her pet projects - the Michael Figures Leadership Initiative. Instead, Figures opted to move the funding from her project to the High Hopes program, a program aimed at students who have trouble passing the state graduation exam.

This project, named after her late husband, helped ninth graders learn leadership techniques. Recognizing the High Hopes program as essential, Figures decided to seek private funding instead of state funding.

That's swallowing your pride and showing true leadership. Her late husband would be proud.

But are other legislators willing to follow Figures lead? Probably not. There not that big.

Are private institutions willing to remain private - that is accept no state funding? Absolutely not. Simply look to Marion Military Institute's leader for that answer.

The problem is, yes, the Legislature is on its way to developing budgets for the state, but as our grandmothers used to say - "There's too many roosters in the hen house." In other words, too many people are trying to make sure their projects are kept in order, regardless of the sacrifice to a great deal more people.

Legislators should look to Figures as an example - she understands the importance of the good of the many outweighing the good of the few.