Voters here reject tax plan
Escambia County follows statewide trend
By BILL CRIST Publisher
Voters in Escambia County said 'they were taxed enough' and voted no on Amendment One Tuesday. Countywide, 8,684 voters took to the polls, with 5,848 voting against the amendment and 2,836 voting for it,
The margin of victory, 2-to-1, followed the pattern established in earlier opinion polls and then of the statewide results from Tuesday. With nearly every precinct reporting, 849,724 voted against the package compared to 410,979 who voted for it.
Amendment One, Gov. Bob Riley's $1.2 billion tax plan, faced an uphill battle ever since it was made public. Its defeat leaves many questions unanswered, but some local residents think it also leaves a great window of opportunity.
Brewton resident Earl Cooper put a positive spin on the outcome, calling it a win-win situation for the people of Alabama.
One of the groups hoping for a different outcome were the state's educators.
That request, originally to have been voted on this month, was put on hold pending the outcome of yesterday's vote. According to Smith, a grassroots effort will be organized for a tentatively-scheduled December election.
Powell has said he has next to no local funds left to augment what the state allocates for schools.
Some experts say that opponents of the plan had the easier job selling their message. They were able to play on the public's distrust of politicians and that about the unneeded size of the package.
Although Smith said he didn't think there would be an immediate impact due to the vote, several factors could make December's vote even more important.
Smith referred to the possible closing of schools within the Escambia County system, and even Conecuh County.
Amendment One was designed to overcome a projected $675 million deficit in the coming year's budget as well as pay for new education programs.
The governor is expected to call the Legislature into special session next week to work out the coming year's budget. The state's fiscal year begins October 1. By law, the state must operate under a balanced budget.
In additional to educational leaders at both the K-12 and college and university level, local health care officials are particularly concerned about the results.
Dr. Marsha Raulerson, a Brewton pediatrician, said before the vote that several agencies which provide vital services to the public, such as AllKids and WIC, are in danger of ceasing operations due to a lack of funding.
She said that Escambia County had received over $22 million in Medicaid funds last year.
Smith acknowledged that the December vote would only help the schools, and that revenue would not start flowing into the coffers until December 2004 if it passes.
Cooper did have one message for the state's legislators.