This is Shelby Countys chance to speak

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Traffic congestion in Shelby County is epic in proportion.

Many elected officials and business leaders have proposed that a new tax, or &8220;fee&8221; of some sort, be imposed. The tax money is to be used exclusively to help solve the county&8217;s traffic jam. A recent telephone poll of Shelby County voters showed there was little enthusiasm for any new taxes. Many of those polled stated they are opposed to any new tax regardless of how the money would be used.

Have you heard &8220;No New Taxes&8221;? The good news is that elected officials and business leaders alike agree that before a transportation tax is passed, there must be a vote of the people. Although I am categorically opposed to raising taxes, I also believe in the wisdom of the voters.

Shelby County voters overwhelmingly rejected both the billion dollar tax amendment and a property tax for education. The resounding defeats of those two initiatives were not lost on the Shelby legislative delegation, including yours truly.

I heard what the voters said, and they made a statement that reverberates till this day. If you have changed your mind and are supportive of a newly proposed tax, I want to know now, not later. If you want your representatives and senators to pave the way for a new tax, this is an opportunity for you to speak up. If you are opposed to enacting another tax, this is your chance to let us know.

Two events should precede the county commission imposing this new tax: a vote of the people and legislative authorization. It is my belief that we should let the people have their say before proceeding any further along this road.

A vote of the citizens of Shelby County could be held next February, providing clear direction to our legislative delegation. If the voters approve of raising taxes, the legislature will have the opportunity to enact the appropriate legislation next spring. If the voters oppose raising taxes, then there would be no need to take the issue to Montgomery.

Anything that appears on the ballot concerning a transportation tax should make the issue crystal clear. For voters to make an informed decision, sufficient information about this tax needs to be offered up front. Voters have a right to know who is going to be taxed, how much, how long it will be in effect should be stated, and how the money is going to be spent. Which road will receive improvements first? Will the money be spread evenly around the county or will it be concentrated? All of these questions need to be spelled out ahead of time. Thusly armed, voters can make wise decisions and give specific direction to those who represent them.

Initially there was a request that first the legislature enact the authorization, second the people vote in a referendum, and third the county commission could put the tax into effect. My suggestion is that the correct order of events is a vote of the people first, legislation second, and then it will be up to the county commission.

If the people are allowed to speak first, legislators, local elected officials and businessmen alike will have a clear-cut direction.

Legislators are not mind readers, although we are extremely sensitive to the pulse of the population. A vote of the people will make sure we have an accurate pulse, and are abiding by the will of those that elected us. Vote first, and we&8217;ll know what to do next.

Jim McClendon (R-Springville) is a State Representative for the 50th District of Alabama