On the ballot in Baldwin County Tuesday were referendums that would have implemented a new 30-year, 8-mill property tax to pay for a $350 million education building campaign, and the renewal of three separate existing taxes totaling 7-mills.
The county reportedly spent nearly $1 million in taxpayer dollars to promote the tax increase and hold the election.
The new taxes were each defeated by over 30 points, and only one precinct in the entire county voted to support them.
Only one of the renewals succeeded, which will keep an existing 3-mill tax in place.
(Editor’s note: “Mill rates” are used to measure the amount of property taxes owed. For a more in-depth explanation, go here.)
“Our taxes are high enough as it is,” said Kevin Spriggs, a Baldwin County small business owner. “The government, Obama and municipalities are raising taxes enough.”
The overwhelming defeat of a tax increase for education in Baldwin County could be a signal for Alabama’s lawmakers on the statewide appetite for higher taxes.
As the Alabama State Legislature begins looking at the budget this week, facets of Governor Robert Bentley’s $541 million tax increase proposal will be considered. While the people of Alabama are unable to call a statewide referendum to vote on any tax increases, as Baldwin County was able to do at a local level, lawmakers in Montgomery could see the vote as an indication that there is very little support among their constituents for a tax increase of any kind.
Alabama Senator Bill Holtzclaw on Tuesday told Governor Bentley on the Senate floor that not a single constituent of his has called in support of the proposed tax hikes.
“But make no mistake,” Sen. Holtzclaw said, “I have heard from people in the community, oh they are contacting me – the working people in the community, those I visited with during the re-election campaign just a few short months ago. I wish that I could share a few of their emails but time does not allow. Comments range from – ‘don’t back down,’ to ‘my family and I support your no new tax position,’ to ‘we pay enough taxes already,’…Bottom line, not a single person has asked that I reverse my position and support the proposed tax increases.”
Earlier this year, a poll conducted by the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA) showed that 49 percent of state residents ranked education as the number one priority for state funding. The poll also asked how many Alabamians would be willing to see their taxes increased to prevent cuts in a certain area. Though the poll found that 63.2 percent would pay more to avoid cuts to education, Tuesday’s results in Baldwin county may call into question PARCA’s results.
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— Elizabeth BeShears (@LizEBeesh) January 21, 2015