Voters are asking for accountability

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 10, 2003

The voters of Alabama have spoken and the tax and reform package known as Amendment One has been resoundingly defeated.

Much has been said and written about the pros and cons of the package. Almost everyone agreed that it was a less than perfect attempt to meet the staggering $675 million budget shortfall the state faces in the upcoming fiscal year.

It was an ambitious plan which would have made numerous wide-ranging changes in the way our state conducted its business &045; from imposing a number of new taxes to changing teacher tenure laws. But voters were swayed by what the plan did not do: It was projected to raise $1.2 billion in new taxes with no guarantees that the money would go where the voters most felt it needed to go.

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Ultimately, however, the defeat of Amendment One was less about the pros and cons of earmarking and pass-through port than it was about voters’ disatisfaction with state government. Voters simply do not trust elected officials and government departments to exercise good stewardship over the tax dollars that they are entrusted with each year. Rightly or wrongly, taxpayers have the perception that they are not getting their money’s worth.

The defeat of Amendment One will do nothing to restore that trust. What happens next is uncertain. &uot;There is no Plan B,&uot; state Sen. Hank Sanders has said. The cuts in government services will be deep, widespread and almost certainly painful for many.

Just saying no to business as usual, however, is not enough. We do not believe Alabama voters are saying they will not support any tax increase, period. We believe they are merely demanding better accountability for their tax dollars. Now is the time for leadership to devise a plan to give them that assurance.