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Amendment 1 up to voters

Educators and Gov. Bob Riley are encouraging voters to support Amendment 1 at the polls Nov. 4 to prop up an education budget that may be hampered by low sales tax collections during the nation’s extreme economic downturn.

The amendment expands the rainy day account from $248 million to approximately $437 million, needed, said Riley, to help an already financially strapped Education Trust Fund. The ETF gets the majority of its funding from sales tax and income tax collections.

“You can borrow enough on a line of credit to get through this periods and then pay it back when the economy cycles back up,” Riley told the Birmingham News earlier this month.

If voters fail to pass Amendment 1, Riley said lawmakers might have to cut programs that assist school administrators and teachers with teaching reading, math and science classes.

Locally, Superintendent Mike Looney also asked voters to approve Amendment 1.

“I do believe we are facing proration. The passage of this amendment will change how much money we can borrow from the oil fund reserves. Right now, it is six percent of the 2002 budget,” Looney said. “With the passage of Amendment 1, this will be updated to six percent of the 2006 budget. I do encourage you to read up on this and consider voting for it.”

Others aren’t so sure approving Amendment 1 is the right thing to do.

Greenville Republican Tim James, who has announced his candidacy for Governor in 2010, said politicians in Montgomery would greedily drain the oil trust fund once given access.

“This perpetual trust, now grown to $3.3 billion, has yielded billions for worthwhile projects, and will continue to do so, unless voters approve Amendment 1 on November’s ballot,” said James.

“An outcome of Amendment One, if voters approve, will be a continuation of doubling Alabama’s state budget every 10 years. Once the politicians in Montgomery gain access to the Alabama Trust Fund, you can bet that the $3.3 billion trust fund balance won’t last long. Their appetite for spending could lead to higher taxes to pay for the new programs and a bigger state bureaucracy,” he said.