Despite all Gov. Bob Riley has done, there are Alabamians who will remember him as “Bingo Bob” because of his bull-in-the-china-shop approach to gambling in the state. Likewise, Attorney General Troy King will be remembered as the man who fought his one-time political ally on the issue.
The bitterness born of that dispute has boiled over into how the state should approach its claims against BP for the revenue lost due to the oil spill — revenue this state badly needs.
Riley wanted to negotiate with the oil giant, get the money that way, and perhaps use litigation as a fallback option.
King wanted to sue.
Both had solid reasons for their particular approaches.
But instead of working this out together — according to King, he and the governor have not spoken since June, and Riley “won’t take my calls” — King filed suit on the state’s behalf. Riley said this approach hurt his efforts to collect the money. King said Riley was being manipulated by BP and it is hurting the state, the Associated Press reported.
Earlier this month, Riley declared another 2 percent proration increase on an already prorated state education budget. He then hinted that proration would not have been necessary if the attorney general had stayed out of the way and let him work out a settlement with BP, which was already dragging its feet because of the suit.
King fired back that if Riley had prepared a realistic budget and had supported the attorney general’s suit, then BP would have been quickly brought to the table and the money would be in the bank.
The governor’s office followed with a statement pointing out that King was talking in his press conference about the wrong budget, and that because the attorney general acted too quickly, the BP money might be tied up in litigation for years.
The governor added that the attorney general’s strategy would mean lawyers hired to handle the case would get about $20 million for their efforts, and that as governor he will make sure that the money goes to the state, not to attorneys.
And so on, and so on …
Obviously, the $148 million claim the state has against BP would cover the $113 million the governor had to cut from the education budget.
However, neither plan — negotiation or lawsuit — promises to get the money soon enough to solve this year’s shortfall.
But this is certain: Until the governor and attorney general work together, BP may not pay a dime.
Unfortunately, we may have to wait for a new governor and new attorney general for this to happen.