Welcome to Jacksonville State University's academic year 2003-2004!
It is a privilege to serve with all of you here because Jacksonville State University, like all institutions of learning is about the future -- a future riding on the talent and motivation of the people we work with, the people we educate, and the new knowledge we generate.
This year all of you, once again, demonstrated that Jacksonville State University is shaping the talent of our students very well indeed. While there are many problems and challenges facing us, you, the faculty and staff prove year after year, your resiliency and determination. Thanks to the energetic and dynamic interaction between faculty, staff, and students, our University is as vital and strong as ever.
I want to draw your attention to just a few of the milestones you accomplished last year. It is a story of success thanks to your hard work and a story in which we can all take pride.
In sixteen days voters will say "YES" or "NO" to the most progressive accountability and tax reform package in Alabama history. Many of you have been away during the summer enjoying some well-deserved time off. An excellent way to catch up on tax reform facts and issues is to visit the University's home page and click on the link at the top of the page.
I want to take a moment to provide a quick overview. Some of you, no doubt, are already familiar with this material. You have attended staff briefings or read the material our Alumni Association has published and some of you have passed resolutions supporting this effort or even worked in the phonathon to support the initiative. I promise to be quick, but bear with me, as there is no greater issue facing us than "THE VERDICT" due on September 9th.
"NO" at the polls means JSU loses more than $2 million, possibly $3 million if cuts go to 10% and we would certainly endure more years of uncertainty and instability.
"YES" means shaping a progressive future for the state - and for JSU - and ending the usual band-aid approaches.
The referendum will be a measure of public trust. By that I mean, will voters be convinced that Governor Bob Riley and our legislators will do as promised and deliver the first meaningful program of fiscal accountability and honesty in Alabama government? Or, will voters remain untrusting after and unwilling to invest in Alabama?
Many of us have spent our free time this summer telling family, friends and others why we have confidence in the Accountability and Tax Reform plan. My main request for you today is to work harder to convince others in the JSU community -- students, friends, anyone within your individual spheres of influence.
Sixteen days is not a lot of time, but it's enough to make a difference if each of us will talk to just one person a day and explain why you will vote "YES" on September 9th - and why it is in their best interest to do so as well.
Here's the main thing people need to know: a "YES" vote means a tax break for most people. A "YES" vote will end the unfair tax system in Alabama. More than 85% of Alabamians will pay the same or lower combined federal and state income taxes under the plan. The Governor's plan eliminates the federal income tax deduction while mortgage interest, charitable contributions, and medical expenses will remain tax deductible.
Now, for just a moment, I want to talk about what a "NO" vote will mean for JSU - for you, and for our students.
"NO" will mean an estimated loss of $2 million, or possibly more. We can expect 10% budget reductions - and the cut could go deeper. "NO" means calling into question every line item in the university's budget. Those of you who are veterans of past prorations haven't seen anything like what could happen this time around, because, ladies and gentlemen, right now there is no State appropriation for October 1st.
You know that I have always been candid and honest with you. Please, think about what I'm saying this morning. If this tax measure fails on September 9th it's not going to be a matter of cutting back here and there and making do -- we're talking about a real possibility of a reduction in force, if the situation plays out to its very worst conclusion. Jacksonville State University, as we know it today, is in danger of ceasing to exist at the level of excellence that we have achieved in recent years. There is no more fat to cut--there is no more wiggle room in the University budget. If you think money for supplies has been tight in the past, well, the coming crisis may mean you can't buy anything at all. It means larger classes, fewer sections, out-of-control tuition, no funds for research and travel, deferred maintenance, no cost-of-living increases and even worse. Students may not be able to graduate on their planned schedule. Everyone will be affected -- some of us more than others.
Sixteen days. That's good news. We can still do a lot.
During that time, I hope you will join me out there working - telling undecided voters why they should have confidence in the plan and what is possible. If we join forces with one another and with others in Alabama higher education; and with our fellow stakeholders in K-12; we can create enough votes that can tip the scales.
I hope you will let your students know what is at stake - Help them to make an informed decision when they vote. Encourage your students to talk to their parents and friends at home. People vote for what they believe is in their best interest and what their friends are voting. We have an enormous opportunity to clearly communicate how we can achieve a greater Alabama and a brighter future for higher education.
For our students, a YES vote not only means a better education but also increased job opportunities and better incomes for them, their children and their grandchildren. It means a chance to find a decent job in Alabama.
In speaking with others, I hope you will share the reality of just how bad things can get if voters say "NO." If nothing is done, critical state services will suffer devastating cuts that would:
The plan will ban pass-through pork. It will permanently end the practice of the legislature moving money around without telling us where the money is going and will make it a crime punishable by jail time or a fine equal to twice the amount of the misdirected funds.
Benefit pension income (for teachers, government employees, etc) will continue to be exempt, and for the first time, the first $40,000 of defined contribution pension income (IRA, 401K) will be exempt from state taxes.
A married couple with 2 children making $30,000 will receive a state tax cut of about $275. The same family making $40,000 will receive a state tax cut of about $200.
The owner of an average Alabama home (~$85,000), currently taxed at about $25 a month, will pay roughly $8 more a month. A $100,000 home, currently taxed at about $30 a month, will see a tax increase of about $11 a month.
Seniors will remain exempt from the state property tax on their home and will pay no increase.
This reform plan represents a sound investment in Alabama's future: We can create a state where our children get the skills to compete for good jobs, and where they have a better opportunity to live and raise a family. IS THAT NOT WHAT YOU DO EVERY DAY HERE AT JSU!
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