Small Turnout, Big Consequences Expected for Tuesday Vote

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - Officials expect a small turnout for Tuesday's statewide referendum.     Gov. Bob Riley says the stakes are high for Alabama's economy. Riley says the last thing needed is apathy when it comes to something as critical as economic development in Alabama.

Voters who do turn out on Tuesday will pass or kill two proposed constitutional amendments. Amendment One would allow the state to issue $400 million dollars in bonds to pay for economic incentives for the ThyssenKrupp steel mill in north Mobile County and other industrial projects throughout the state.

For Riley, the success of Amendment One is tied to Alabama's ability to keep its record low unemployment rate and keep attracting industries.       "Without it," Riley says, "it will be difficult for Alabama to remain as competitive as we are now."

Opponents, including Mo Brooks, a Madison County commissioner and GOP candidate for lieutenant governor last year, dislike the state using about half of the $400 (M) million dollars in bond authority to lure a steel mill that will compete with existing steel mills in Alabama.       Amendment Two would provide constitutional protection for two trust funds recently set up by the Legislature to save money for the future health care costs of retired state workers and public education employees. Without constitutional protection, the Legislature could raid the funds in the future.

Janice McDonald, elections director for the secretary of state's office, says turnout for a referendum tends to be light unless there is something like a lottery or major tax hike to excite Alabama's 2.8 million voters.

Based on the lack of calls to the secretary of state's office, that's not the case with Tuesday's referendum. McDonald predicts turnout will be 10 percent or less.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)