The amendment to take more than $437 million over three years from a state trust fund passed today on a 2-to-1 vote.
With 81 percent of precincts counted, the proposal had 313,360 yes votes and 161,374 no votes.
The amendment, which was championed by Gov. Robert Bentley, will rewrite the state constitution to make special transfers of $145.8 million a year in each of the next three fiscal years from the Alabama Trust Fund to the General Fund, a major source of money for prisons, courts, Medicaid health care for the poor and disabled and other non-education areas.
The proposed amendment also would change the decades-old way that regular annual transfers are made to the General Fund from the trust fund, which now has $2.3 billion in invested assets and collects most of the royalties paid the state by companies that pump natural gas offshore.
Bentley in a statement tonight thanked Alabama voters for approving the plan, which he said allows the state to "temporarily borrow funds from our savings account to help get us through these difficult economic times without raising taxes."
He pledged that the Legislature would make sure the money was repaid, and he said efforts to make government more cost-efficient would continue.
Bill Armistead, chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, said in a statement tonight that legislation to pay the money back already has been drafted to be introduced in the Legislature next year."I am also confident that they will continue to right-size our state government, so that necessary services can continue to be met in the most cost effective way possible," Armistead wrote. "Under the continued Republican leadership, we must make sure that we never find ourselves in a similar situation again. Republicans were sent to Montgomery to bring spending under control. I applaud them in their efforts to do so far, and encourage them to continue to remain faithful to the mandate set before them."
Alabama House Minority Leader Craig Ford, who opposed the amendment, said in a statement he was glad that Medicaid would not be cut. "But the problem has not gone away, and if we do not act soon, we will be right back here in three years," he said.
He also said Democrats would hold Republicans to their promise to repay the money.
"We are also going to demand that the leadership propose a long-term solution to this problem so that we do not end up right back here in three years," he said. "It is time for the Republican leadership in Montgomery to do their job and lead. We have options; it's just a matter of whether or not the Republicans in Montgomery have the courage to lead."
Alabama Democratic Party Chairman Mark Kennedy said in a statement, "The people of Alabama have not only saved countless friends and neighbors from losing jobs and the most basic services but have also saved the Republican legislative supermajority from a catastrophic mess.
"After over a hundred years of Democrats getting the job done and making tough decisions on behalf of all Alabamians, it took only two years for the Republican supermajority in the legislature to bring the state to the brink of a financial catastrophe -- threatening countless seniors and vulnerable Alabamians with losing the most basic of care, literally putting lives in jeopardy.
Kennedy said Republican legislators "shirked their responsibility" and gave the people only two options, cut the budget or raid the savings account.
Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh, however, said the state's financial problems go back much further.
"We're working to solve complex budget issues that have been compounded by years of one-time money and excessive government spending," he said in a statement. "This transfer is a bridge to help us avoid a crash landing while we continue working to implement cost-cutting measures that will lead to a more fiscally responsible state government. Overall, I'm thankful that the people of Alabama are supportive of our efforts to continue moving the state forward."