Officials: Go to the polls

Published 12:00 am Sunday, June 3, 2007

Proposed amendments affect future industry, health care

By Deborah Goodwin

The Selma Times-Journal

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State and local officials are encouraging voters to go to the polls on Tuesday, June 5.

Tuesday’s statewide referendum will have a huge impact on Alabama’s future.

Two proposed state constitutional amendments have state and local officials crossing their fingers for &8216;yes’ votes.

Amendment One

Amendment One would allow the state to issue $400 million in bonds to pay for economic incentives for the ThyssenKrupp steel mill near Mobile and other industrial projects throughout the state.

Gov. Bob Riley said the &8216;yes’ vote is vital if Alabama is to keep attracting new industries.

However, some disagree with paying industrial incentives to lure new industry.

Dallas County Probate Judge Kim Ballard said he doesn’t think paying industrial incentives is &8220;corporate welfare&8221; at all.

Ballard gave reference to the Mercedes plant in Tuscaloosa and the Hyundai plant in Hope Hull, saying though those plants are not located in Dallas County, the county benefits from having the plants in Alabama. County residents work at the plants and Dallas County is home to suppliers of the automotive industry.

Ballard says the only reservation he has is that more funds need to be allocated to Dallas County and the Black Belt.

Amendment Two

If approved, Amendment Two would provide constitutional protection for two trust funds recently set up by the Legislature to save money for the future health care costs of retired state workers and public education employees. Without constitutional protection, the Legislature could raid the funds in the future.

Amendment Two is the result of the Government Accounting Standards Board requiring states to take into account their future health insurance costs for retired public employees the way they already address their pension costs.

For Alabama, fiscal experts say it’s about a $20 billion liability.

Riley said approving the constitutional amendment will show Wall Street that Alabama is serious about addressing the issue of retirees’ health care costs, and it will help keep bond rates low for the economic incentive bonds as well as the school construction bonds approved by the Legislature on Thursday. Riley said Alabama’s interest rates on bonds could go up if Amendment Two dies Tuesday.

Going to the polls

New industry and health care are two very hot topics when it comes to campaigning, and voters tend to turn out in large numbers for general elections, but high voter turnout is historically not the case for referendum elections.

Martin also serves as chief inspector at the Byrd Elementary School precinct. Martin and many poll workers attended election school on Thursday at the Dallas County Courthouse in preparation for Tuesday’s election.

All precincts will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

There are currently 29,852 registered voters in Dallas County, according to the probate judge’s office.

Times-Journal Editor Tammy Leytham and Associated Press Writer PHILLIP RAWLS contributed to this report.