Riley should prorate again Oct. 1

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 22, 2010

When the calendar flips to October next Friday, Gov. Bob Riley should do the right thing and declare proration immediately.

Just last week, Riley increased proration of the state’s education budget by 2 percent for the fiscal year that ends this month. Unfortunately, he wasn’t prorating the remaining 1/12th of the budget, but adding 2 percent for the entire year.

That meant $113 million statewide, and a cut of approximately $700,000 to schools in Covington County. Fortunately, prudent leaders of the local system had been expecting this. But when you make it to mid-September without official word, you start to breathe a sigh of relief.

Riley blamed the proration on his political foe, Attorney General Troy King, who earlier this year filed a lawsuit against BP. Riley was counting on a $148 million payment from the giant oil company to save him the trouble of additional proration.

When Riley presented his education budget to the legislature last year, those who read the economic tea leaves called it a fairy tale. The projected increase in sales tax revenue, they said, won’t come.

Riley, in his state of the state address, called dire budget projections for the state “a crock” and that there was potential for a 4 percent increase in the General Fund and a $400 million increase for education.

Certainly, Riley doesn’t want to declare proration in the 2011 budget lest it hurt his party’s chances of remaining in control of the governor’s mansion and increasing its position in the legislature in the Nov. 2 general election.

But he knows, just as we know, that presenting an unrealistic budget and then ignoring that reality is not the right thing to do.

(Insert long, loud, Riley-esque sigh here.)

But we’re betting he leaves proration for the new governor to call in January.