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Alabama voters reject tax plan

By Associated Press
© St. Petersburg Times
published September 10, 2003

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Gov. Bob Riley's $1.2-billion tax package was rejected overwhelmingly Tuesday night as voters agreed with those who said Alabama needs spending cuts rather than the largest tax increase in state history.

With 82 percent of precincts reporting, 742,446 people, or 68 percent, were opposed; 345,811 people, or 32 percent, were in favor.

The Republican governor promoted the tax package - the largest percentage tax boost proposed in any state - as the way to get Alabama off the bottom of many national education rankings.

But opponents, including leaders of Riley's party, said Alabama politicians need to cut wasteful spending rather than raise taxes.

"The opponents were able to play on the voters' cynicism about politicians in Alabama, that the tax increase wasn't necessary, and that even if it did pass the money wouldn't go to education," said David Lanoue, chairman of the political science department at the University of Alabama.

At polling places across the state, voters voiced their distrust of politicians.

"If the money they have now was spent wisely, we wouldn't need this," said Adie Ward, a 74-year-old retired state employee from Montgomery.

Riley had said he "had no choice" in proposing a tax increase to alleviate the state's worst budget deficit since the Great Depression. Without a tax hike, he said, budget cuts would be so deep that state government wouldn't function.

The Alabama Legislature is expected to be called into special session in about a week to deal with the red ink.

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