Constitutional amendment up for vote Tuesday - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Constitutional amendment up for vote Tuesday

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Voters will have the chance to decide Tuesday how Alabama lawmakers will balance the state's budget.

There will be a statewide vote on a constitutional amendment...that reads in part..."...to prevent the mass release of prisoners from Alabama prisons, and to protect critical health services to alabama children, elderly, and mothers..."

Critics contend the wording itself is a scare tactic and that this vote is the result of a state legislature unwilling to make tough decisions on the general fund budget. Supporter say the referendum isn't a scare tactic, but a scary prospect of what could happen if the vote fails.

Children's of Alabama CEO Mike Warren and some state leaders say if the amendment fails, it would have devastating results for the state's healthcare industry.

"Without this passage, all of our jobs and the healthcare infrastructure will be in jeopardy. It absolutely must pass," Warren says.

Sixty-five percent of the hospital's patients receive help from Medicaid, which is one major program that would benefit from the transfer of funds.

Senator Jabo Waggoner takes it beyond healthcare. He says state agencies need the money too. Without it, he contends, their budgets would be cut seventeen percent.

"You're talking about a loss of jobs. You're talking about a loss of services. You're talking about fewer state troopers on the road," Waggoner says.

Not every state lawmaker sees it that way. Senator Paul Bussman is opposed to the amendment.
He accuses supporters of the referendum of using scare tactics.

"You know, Armageddon is going to happen. Hospitals are going to close, nursing homes are going to close, and I just don't think that's going to happen," Bussman says.

He adds that state leaders should look for other ways balance the budget. Tuscaloosa real estate developer Stan Pate agrees.

"They were elected based on efficiency, based on all these promises. And what's the first thing they do? They want to go into the savings account of the trust fund," Pate says.

Pate also doesn't  support the amendment because there is no mention of paying back what is taken.

But supporters say it will be replaced.

The Governor's office has assured the people of Alabama that the money will be paid back," Waggoner says.



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