Tax Defeat and Education

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"They said we want you to reduce the size of government before you ever come back and ask for another dime," said Gov. Bob Riley Tuesday night. Sixty-seven percent of voters said no to the $1.2 billion tax plan that was supposed to offset the state's $675 million deficit.

With the start of the new fiscal year less than a month away, many are now wondering how the state will operate and more importantly how will it affect education.

"Were talking about cuts in technology, generally from a state fund," said Choctaw County superintendent Dr. John Myrick. "Professional development will be cut. Textbook money will be zero."

"Our teacher contracts are already settled, so I am not expecting any teacher or support staff cuts," Myrick said. "But the additional things that make education are going to be devastated.

How does this trickle down to schools? In Choctaw County, teachers may soon have to pay for staplers and pens and pencils out of their own pockets.

"It really depends on what the legislature does," said Myrick. "I am sure they will do something, but first they have to have a budget."

The budget would have to not only pay for education but also for government and public services. Lawmakers will hold a special session on Monday to begin building that budget, as superintendents across the state sit and wait.

The executive director of the Alabama State Employees Association is hopeful the Alabama Legislature will enact some tax hikes early next year.

In fact, executive director Mac McArthur has about $250 million worth of suggestions:

1) A quarter tax on each video and DVD rental
2) Raising the cigarette tax by 14.5 cents a pack
3) A four-cent tax on each 12-ounce soft drink or beer

McArthur said voters' lopsided rejection of Riley's tax plan shouldn't be taken as a sign that they won't support any new taxes. He said that without a tax increase, state employees are facing major layoffs in fiscal 2004 and even bigger layoffs in fiscal 2005.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.