Vote gives ‘temporary bridge’

Published 3:48 pm Sunday, September 23, 2012

Days after Alabama voters passed a constitutional amendment allowing for funds to be diverted from the state’s trust fund into the General Fund, legislators and citizens alike weighed in on what they thought about the referendum.

Tuesday, state voters passed the amendment by a nearly two to one margin statewide, while in Escambia County, the referendum passed by a four to one gap.

In Atmore, Ruby Nell White said she supported the amendment because she does not want to see state services and jobs cut.

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“I came out to vote ‘yes’ because we have to keep all of these things going,” White said.

“We have to keep healthcare and Medicaid.”

Voter Minnie Hall was also worried about state jobs and services – particularly in the field of healthcare.

“My granddaughter works for Home Health,” Hall said. “She’s been working there a long time.”

Jacob Archie said he voted yes “because education is very important.”

Not all voters, however, were keen on the idea of borrowing money in order to solve the problems with the General Fund.

Rhonda McCorvey said she thinks there are other ways Alabama can solve its problems, without dipping into the so called rainy day fund.

“I work at a prison,” McCorvey said. “Some of them need jobs, need a second chance. It’s because of education. Why aren’t teachers teaching these students? Some of them need to be in there, but some of them just need an education. I did not vote ‘yes.’”

State Rep. Alan Baker said he was pleased with the outcome, despite being dismayed the vote was necessary at all.

“I think that the voters seemed to understand the magnitude of the economic crisis we’re enduring,” Baker said. “Overall I was very pleased with the results. I thought the turnout throughout the state overall was good. I was very pleased to see citizens, both for and against the referendum, trying to educate themselves about the amendment.”

Baker said the amendment’s passing will buy Alabama some time, but is not a long-term solution to the state’s budget crisis.

“This provides us with a temporary bridge to sustain a minimum level of services while we try to find adequate ways to fund the state,” Baker said.

He acknowledged, however, the importance finding a fiscally responsible way to pay back the state’s trust fund.

“The governor has made that a high priority and I will personally vote in support of that and expect it to be one of the early actions of the legislature when we convene in February,” Baker said.

Alabama Sen. Marc Keahey said he too supported the amendment, despite voting against it during a legislative session earlier this year.

“I’m glad that it passed,” Keahey said. “I voted for it as a citizen even though I was opposed to it as a budget policy back during the session.”
Keahey said the move was an unfortunate necessity in a situation with no real plan b.

“The amendment is certainly not the best solution, but the reality was it was the only solution,” he said. “There was going to be nearly $200 million in cuts that were going to dramatically affect our area and rural hospitals in and around Atmore.”

Keahey said the vote should send a message to Montgomery that “people are more important than politics.”

“I think that the referendum should tell the super majority in Montgomery that Alabama places the welfare of working families above partisan politics,” Keahey said. “And that was the alternative to the amendment. The cuts really would have affected rural Alabama more than the urban areas and that was why I voted for it.”

Keahey, however, also expressed the importance of paying the money back into the trust fund in a timely manner.

“If we don’t pay it back, three years from now our General Fund will be in much worse shape than it is now,” he said. “It’s not something we can wait three years to get to work on fixing. We’ve got to repay the trust fund, because it provides funding to our General Fund and our municipalities.”

The legislature will reconvene in February, 2013.