The current stalemate over the state budgets is good drama. The radio and television ads are interesting and enjoyable. Both sides have created masterful media pieces. It is good entertainment for those of us who follow Alabama politics. However, it is a rerun. This play has been enacted several times in the past. One actor who has continuously been on the stage is Dr. Paul Hubbert, the reigning King of Goat Hill. Hubbert has mastered his part for over 30 years, while new actors appear on the stage periodically to play the role of his bold adversary.

At issue, in the perennial saga of Goat Hill, is do you dare divert tax dollars earmarked for the Special Education Trust Fund Budget to other General Fund projects. For those of you who do not know the end of the story I hate to spoil the ending for you, but in the final scene the answer is “no.” You do not take education dollars from Dr. Hubbert and education.

In Alabama’s present day version of the David vs. Goliath epic battle Hubbert is perceived as the villain, the eight hundred pound gorilla, who controls the Legislature. Casual observers pull for Riley, the underdog. However, in the first version of this diversion drama it was Hubbert who was the underdog and the David figure. The king and Goliath figure was Alabama’s most powerful and legendary Governor George Wallace.

In the 1970s Paul Hubbert, a youthful, clean cut, PhD school superintendent, took the reigns of the dormant Alabama Education Association. It was a toothless sleeping giant. The AEA was a docile group which basically submitted to the smaller numbered superintendents’ association until Hubbert brilliantly organized his teachers and emboldened them to take on the famous Governor.

Wallace was offering the same solution that Riley is embarking on today. However, Wallace, the greatest actor to ever grace the Alabama political stage, did it much more dramatically then Riley, a political novice. Wallace called a special session and beckoned statewide television in an attempt to illustrate his argument. In front of the TV cameras, Wallace presented two fruit jars. Both jars were filled with pennies. One jar was overflowing with pennies. This jar represented the Education Trust Fund which was ripe for the picking due to the growth in sales tax and income tax from the previous year, very similar to today’s scene. The other fruit jar was half full, representing the less nourished General Fund. Wallace asked why don’t we just take a few of the pennies that have spilled out of the overflowing jar and put them into the half empty jar. Then the state can just go along on its merry way.

The young David, Dr. Paul Hubbert, pulled out his slingshot and hurled a rock at the giant Wallace. It hit him squarely between the eyes. Dr. Hubbert won the initial war over diversion and slew the Goliath Wallace in Wallace’s heyday. Hubbert laid down the gauntlet at that time. Hubbert and his army of teachers made it a cardinal transgression for the legislature to ever attempt to divert education dollars.

Over the past 30 years the David of the 1970s, Dr. Paul Hubbert, has now become king. Governors come and go, but Hubbert remains and has grown even stronger. Governor Riley must know deep down that he cannot win this war. The Legislature will write the budgets and ignore Riley just as they have done for the past two years and will do again this year, regardless of what Riley proposes.

However, Riley’s symbolic fight is good politics. It wins him friends among GOP stalwarts because he is taking on the big bad union boss Paul Hubbert. Riley is learning and growing politically and will be a formidable opponent for Roy Moore and Lucy Baxley next year. They best not underestimate him. The drama of Goat Hill continues.