County, state voters say ‘yes’

Published 12:05 am Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Covington County voters overwhelmingly agreed with voters across Alabama who approved a Constitutional Amendment providing stop-gap funding for the state’s General Fund budget for the next three fiscal years, beginning Oct. 1.

The amendment moves $145.8 million from the Alabama Trust Fund into the General Fund for the next three years. Royalties from oil and gas leases are deposited into the General Fund each year, and the interest of that fund feeds the General Fund. The General Fund budget includes funding for most non-education agencies in Alabama, including prisons and Medicaid.

In Covington County, where 24.28 percent of the county’s registered voters cast ballots, 69.5 percent voted “yes.”

The numbers were similar statewide. At 10 p.m., with 83 percent of the votes counted, state returns showed 65 percent voted in favor of the amendment.

Gov. Robert Bentley said, “I want to thank the voters for approving the state’s plan to temporarily borrow funds from our savings account to help get us through these difficult economic times without raising taxes. Once again, I pledge to the people of this state that the funds transferred to help support critical state services will be paid back.”

While the legislation that was approved does not require repayment of the transfers, Bentley and a few legislators have said they will support legislation in 2013 to require repayment.

State Rep. Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, said voters’ overwhelming approval shows that Alabama citizens made it clear they understand the state’s funding problems cannot be fixed in one year.

“We didn’t get here overnight, and it’s going to take some time to get us out,” he said. “We need to make sure we do it in such a way that it’s thoughtful, we use wisdom, and we try to protect those people who can’t take care of themselves.”

Jones said he voted against the first budget proposed because it didn’t make enough cuts, adding that Alabama residents should expect more cuts and more consolidations.

Meanwhile, he said, he and others are working to identify growth taxes that can be directed to the General Fund. An example, he said, would be capturing sales taxes for online sales.

Bentley, for his part, said efforts to increase efficiency will continue.

“My goal is to identify a billion dollars in savings by the end of my first term, and that goal is well within reach,” he said.