Service doesn’t come cheap

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 11, 2003

It’s time for Americans to start pondering the type of society we are going to have in the 21st-century.

Throughout the nation, as states face record budget deficits, voters, by overwhelming majorities, are defeating efforts to close those wide open budget gaps and maintain services – forget about moving states forward.

Closing those gaps almost always means that someone’s taxes are going to increase.

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That voters would resist such measures is understandable. Nobody wants to pay more taxes. Be that as it may, we are heading for a day of reckoning where government services are concerned and it’s going to be sooner rather than later.

Yesterday in Alabama, voters by a two-thirds majority voted down an effort by Republican Gov. Bob Riley to eliminate Alabama’s budget deficit, make the state’s income tax structure equitable and attempt to move Alabama off the bottom of nearly every quality-of-life list.

&uot;Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve heard what the people of Alabama have said, and they said very clearly tonight, ‘We do want you to be good stewards, but we want a smaller government until you prove to us you are stewards of our money.’&uot;

&uot;We’re going to reduce services,&uot; he added. &uot;But once we do – and I hope everyone in the state of Alabama understands this – we have to be very judicious in the cuts we make, because so many people are absolutely dependent on this state for their very existence. We need to make sure that we continue to protect the least among us.&uot;

The same thing is happening right here at home. Last year, Hampton Roads voters turned down a sales tax referendum that would have funded highway improvements. Been on I-64 in Hampton lately?

This is not to say that voters are wrong in rejecting these measures. Granted, many state government bureaucracies are bloated and need to be trimmed, but that’s only going to go so far. We have to realize that by voting no to state’s raising revenues, we are in effect saying, &uot;We want you to eliminate services.&uot;

What will those services be? Education? Medical care for the elderly? Road improvements? How about police protection or garbage pickup?

And don’t count on our state legislators to address these issues, most of whom were elected on &uot;No New Tax&uot; pledges. You can’t even count on our chief executives – the president is asking for $87 billion to conduct a war while at the same time cutting taxes.

Alabamans won’t be alone in making tough choices.