Why are we voting on September 18th?
The short answer is, in fact, that the Alabama legislature and the governor really don’t want you to vote hence the special election on September 18th. The state could simply add this amendment to the presidential ballot on November 6th and save the $3 million it will cost to open the polls tomorrow. Whether you vote yes or no tomorrow, please hold your state legislators accountable for holding a special election just to keep turnout low.
That aside, here is your shortcut to the facts about the referendum tomorrow.
What is it? An amendment allowing $145.8 million a year (for three years) to be taken from the Alabama Trust Fund to fund shortfalls in the state budget.
What is the Alabama Trust Fund? An investment fund established in 1985 to collect income from oil and gas leases. The interest from the Fund currently goes to the general fund and Forever Wild. This measure is asking voters to allow the legislature and governor to utilize the corpus.
Why vote yes? Proponents of the amendment state that without the funds from the Alabama Trust Fund, the state will face significant (near catastrophic) cuts in Medicaid, the prison system and other state services.
Why vote no? The reason voters face this decision is that the Governor and the majority of the legislature will not raise additional revenue (i.e. taxes). Governor Bentley recently declined a cigarette tax in order to maintain this pledge. The pledge not to raise revenue through taxes left them with 2 choices: (1) Cut the budget deeply to maintain a balanced budget or (2) Utilize funds from the Alabama Trust Fund to meet the shortfall for the next three years.
How does Alabama’s tax rate compare to the United States? According to this non-partisan report from Samford University, Alabama has the lowest tax rate in the nation.
The one thing that both sides agree upon is that a yes vote simply ‘kicks the can down the road’ without solving the fundamental gap between Alabama revenue and the cost of services to citizens.
Tomorrow YOU choose – (1) Painful cuts to balance the budget that may cause catastrophic cuts and/or the loss of Medicaid funding to the poor or (2) a temporary measure that reduces the balance of the Alabama Trust Fund until our legislature and governor change their minds on new revenue sources (i.e. taxes) or they are replaced by those who will.
Regardless, no one wins tomorrow.
Read the proposed state amendment here.