A publisher ponders

Gonna vote?

When voters go to the polls Tuesday, Nov. 2, they will receive ballots on proposed amendments to the Alabama Constitution of 1901. Though some measures, passed by the Legislature for the public’s approval, would have farreaching effects, relatively few electors bother to vote on them.

The measures are adopted and become law if approved not by a majority of registered voters but by a majority of those casting votes.

Tapping State Trust Fund

One amendment would provide for a 10-year program of construction and improvement of the state’s transportation system to be financed by $100 million taken annually from the State Trust Fund.

Few would question the urgent need for such a program, given the state of Alabama’s roads and bridges and its need for public transit systems. Some question the wisdom of drawing from the trust fund fed by tax revenues from offshore oil drilling, from which only interest from investments was initially meant to be spent.

The program would run from Sept. 30, 2011, to Sept. 30, 2020.

The total capital of the Alabama Trust Fund would not be allowed to drop below $2 billion. Any amount of the $100 million allocated for one year but not expended would be carried forward to the next year.

Seventy-five percent of the money would go to the state Department of Transportation which, over the 10 years, would allocate $1 million to the Alabama Shortline Railroad Infrastructure Rehabilitation Fund. A total $5 million would be spent in each congressional district.

Of the remainder of the department’s 75 percent, an amount equal to 45 percent divided by 67 would be spent in each county; 55 percent of the remainder would be spent in counties based on population.

The 25 percent of the sum to come from the trust fund and not assigned to the highway department would be distributed to counties and municipalities. Forty-five percent would be divided equally among counties, 55 percent based on population: Of that, 10 percent of the counties’ money would go to the municipalities based on population.

In the awarding of certain of the contracts, local governments may give preference to Alabama-based companies that employ Alabama residents.

Certain of the funds should be expended in such a way that disadvantaged business enterprises should be assured of participation.