County, State say no#039; to tax plan

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Alabama voters turned down Gov. Bob Riley’s $1.2 billion tax plan overwhelmingly yesterday, agreeing with opponents who want more spending controls in state government.

Butler County voters voted 3,865 to 2,515 to deny the measure. As of press time Tuesday night, 676,408 voters statewide said no, with 309,469 voting to approve.

The special referendum had no other item but Amendment One on the ballot.

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The governor remained upbeat as he spoke to supporters.

&uot;They said we want you to reduce the size of government before you ask for another dime,&uot; the governor said.

He said he would start Wednesday doing just that.

Riley will call the Legislature into special session on Monday to hammer out the budgets before the Oct. 1 start of the new fiscal year.

Roger McConnell, co-chairman of the anti-tax Tax Accountability Coalition, said voters should be wary of the special session.

&uot;The electorate is much smarter than people realize and they are fed up with Montgomery and the way politicians spend money,&uot; he said at a press conference in Montgomery after proclaiming victory.

Locally, those for the tax increase remained somber Tuesday night at the Butler County Courthouse Annex.

One person watching the results was Butler County Board of Education District 2 Member Terry Williams, who was disappointed with the results.

&uot;It’s really hard to say what’s going to happen next,&uot; he said. &uot;I do know our school system was dependent on this.

We have to wait and see now.&uot;

While many touted the plan as a way of improving public education, it was not only the children he thought about.

&uot;I don’t think voters let the children down,&uot; he said.

&uot;I believe they let themselves down.&uot;

Circuit Clerk Allen Stephenson also watched the opposition of the tax increase claim victory, and said Alabama will see a drastic change.

&uot;I think the people have spoken and said they want less government,&uot; he said.

&uot;They’re going to get less.&uot;

He said the judicial system faces even greater cuts.

&uot;I know through the judicial system we have cut as much as possible without cutting services,&uot; he said. &uot;It will be interesting to see where we make our next cuts.

We’ve been told that there will be cuts.&uot;

Turnout seemed strong throughout the county with a total of 6,380 people casting votes.

Area poll workers reported they saw a steady stream of voters throughout the day.

Turnout at the Greenville armory was steady Tuesday, according to five-year poll veteran Barbara Rudolph.

&uot;We’ve had a great turnout so far,&uot; she said.

&uot;We’ve had a little more than 500 vote, and it’s only 2 o’clock. There aren’t as many here as we would have if they were voting for a president, but we have a lot more voting a lot earlier than we usually have for this kind of thing. It’s more than we thought we would have.&uot;

A poll worker at the voting house in Midway said the turnout was above normal.

As of 4:45 p.m. Tuesday, Harrison’s voting precinct in rural eastern Butler County had 139 voters out of 380-registered turn out to vote, according to poll worker Barbara Jones.

&uot;This is a good turnout for us,&uot; she said. &uot;We have been pretty busy all day.

I spoke to a poll worker in Searcy earlier and was told things had been slow there today.&uot;

Voters were also quick to voice why they voted Tuesday and how they voted.

&uot;I voted ‘no’ because this is just another way to tax the blue-collar workers,&uot; Leland Cobb said at the armory.

&uot;I have a lot of friends who are voting ‘yes,’ and we will still be friends. I just don’t understand how they can be for something like this.&uot;

Others felt the issue was dead on arrival, but they went to the polls anyway.

&uot;I think the ‘No’s’ will win,&uot; George Cook said. &uot;The way I look at it, people don’t like change, and so they won’t vote for this.&uot;

Sheila Brooks, a local teacher, agreed the voters would choose the negative

&uot;I have a feeling the ‘No’s’ will win,&uot; she said. &uot;I’m an educator, and we need that ‘yes’ vote. But people are afraid anytime you say the words ‘tax increase’ – that’s all they hear. But this is something we need.&uot;

Another voter wanting the measure to pass held out hope at the polls late Tuesday afternoon.

&uot;I hope that the ‘Yes’s’ will win, but I think the ‘No’s’ will,&uot; Alicia Lee said. &uot;I have heard a lot of people saying they are going to vote ‘no.’ Most of them think that Riley isn’t telling the truth, and will spend the money on other things.&uot;

Advocate staff Johnna Pitts and Angie Long contributed to this report.