Monday, September 27, 2004
On this day:

Remember Amendment One?

Last year about this time, Alabamians were bombarded with ads telling them of the state's dire financial crisis and warning of horrible consequences if Amendment 1, Governor Riley's tax and accountability package, did not pass. School children would go without textbooks, teachers would be laid off, prisoners would be set free. But, in spite of all the pleas, Alabama voters rejected the package by a 2-1 margin.

Now, some of the bad predictions actually did happen. This was a lean year. Money for textbooks was scaled back. Some teachers were not rehired. The number of parole hearings was stepped up drastically. The state trooper force was reduced.

However, it looks as though we have made it through all that. The news today looks good, at least for the education budget. Revenues to the Special Education Trust Fund are up 10.4%, and the Fund now will end the year with a surplus of at least $150 million.

So how did this happen without a tax increase? How is it that the situation has essentially corrected itself? Alabamians were told only last year that drastic increases in revenue were absolutely required for state government to continue to function. But, lo and behold, here we are. The world is still here, and Alabama is still in it. Is it conceivable that our politicians, educators, business leaders, university administrators, and newspaper editors could have all been wrong? These were the cream of the crop, the best and the brightest, the brave and the beautiful. They were the ones who derided the 2/3 of Alabamians who voted against the referendum as selfish and ignorant.

Retirement Systems of Alabama CEO David Bronner essentially asked, "Do these people not know what is good for them?" Anniston Star Publisher H. Brandt Ayers questioned the "state patriotism" of tax opponents. The University of Alabama, in its ongoing mission to save the state from its backwardness, organized a rally at which President Witt said, "I am confident that all members of The University of Alabama academic family will go to the polls and vote to support the accountability and tax-reform package that is so vitally important to our University and state." The University, by the way, promoted the referendum with University funds after increasing tuition by 16% that summer. Auburn President William Walker also urged support of the plan, warning of disastrous consequences if it were rejected. Auburn also increased tuition by 16% that year, while using University funds to promote the referendum, although maybe not as blatantly as UA.

All of this should be a lesson for the good people of Alabama. When politicians team up with the pointy-heads in the universities, attempting to send us all on a collective guilt trip for not being generous enough with our money, we ought to pause and remember this episode. When fiscal disaster is predicted by people with a vested interest in higher government spending, it is good to stop and question whether we're being mislead. And, when we're ridiculed for our narrow-mindedness, we should be well-armed with the facts as they have emerged in the last year.