The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

September 16, 2012

Be unhappy about it but vote anyway

Associated Press

From the Montgomery Advertiser:

Alabama voters should go to their polling places on Sept. 18 in a distinctly displeased mood, brimming with anger at the dereliction of their Legislature and governor, an abdication of responsibility that has left the voters with a terrible choice to make. It should never have come to this. Never.

Yet it has, and so the voters of our state find themselves facing a referendum with enormous consequences — direct consequences for hundreds of thousands of us and indirect, but still potentially grave, consequences for all of us. Even though these same voters in 2010 elected the 140 members of the House and Senate and the governor to make tough decisions, they instead got a tough decision tossed back in their laps. It’s just plain wrong.

The referendum will determine whether Alabama’s continually strapped General Fund budget will get a three-year infusion of funding of about $145 million a year from the state’s oil and natural gas trust fund.

A responsible Legislature would have done its job and taken steps to address the funding issue, which looms large and menacingly over our state. A responsible governor would have demanded such action and offered some leadership on the matter.

That didn’t happen, and now the voters of Alabama are saddled with a critical choice, with weighing the deeply troubling implications of failing to approve the referendum against the eminently understandable desire not to bail out the spineless lot that put them in this position.

There is no Plan B. Gov. Robert Bentley has flatly stated he will not offer or support any tax proposal, not even the sensible cigarette tax proposed earlier this year, which could have long-term health benefits by reducing smoking while raising an estimated $230 million in annual revenue now. Democrats in the Legislature say they will offer an alternative if the referendum fails, but they are so marginalized in the Republican-dominated bodies that it might not matter. ...

The Sept. 18 vote matters — hugely — for every Alabamian. For that reason, the Advertiser urges voters not to vent their immensely justified anger at their non-leading leaders by reflexively opposing the referendum.

There will be an opportunity to hold the Legislature and governor accountable in the 2014 elections. In the meantime, the consequences of not passing the referendum are simply too great to accept. As galling as it is to do so, we recommend voting yes on Sept. 18.