By Scott Buttram
If you thought the voter turnout for municipal elections was low, wait until you see today’s paltry turnout. With a single amendment on the ballot, state leaders are counting on you- not to show up.
The issue is whether or not to transfer $146 million per year for 3 years from the state savings account to the checking account. The vote is as much a referendum on the ideology of the Republican party in Alabama as it is balancing the budget.
Supporters of the amendment include Governor Robert Bentley, Senator Jabo Waggoner and a who’s who among state Republican leadership. In the category of politics making strange bedfellows, AEA also supports the transfer.
The supporters say the money is needed to balance the budget without raising taxes, a key Republican mantra. They are telling the truth. They claim the elderly will be put out of nursing homes, prisoners will be released, children will go hungry without the money. They promise to pay the money back over time. You will have to decide if that is the truth.
Opponents of the amendment also include Republicans. The most conservative of the party, like the Eagle Forum, strongly oppose the transfer because they favor a reduction in state government, another key Republican mantra. They claim there is no requirement that the money ever be paid back. They are telling the truth.
The supporters say there are other ways to balance the budget and there is more fat to cut
. But with the lowest tax base per citizen in America and an Alabama love affair with earmarked funds, you will have to decide if that is true.
The still new Republican majority in Montgomery has offered a mixed bag of results since taking the reins. They delivered on ethics reform and stripped AEA of power, as promised. They also promised charter schools and a repeal of the 67 percent legislative pay raise. They delivered on neither.
Today’s decision by voters will do more than provide funds for a balanced budget or send state leaders searching for other answers. The vote will, in large part, send a directional message to Montgomery. Move existing money where it is needed or keep cutting state services and programs. You who choose to vote will decide. And since today’s vote is costing taxpayers $3 million, it just might be worth your time to let your voice be heard.