Economic special session successful
Published 9:34 am Wednesday, March 7, 2007
The governor's special session called last week to pass incentives to attract a major industry to our state was very successful. It went smoothly with a minimum five-day session that resulted in the necessary legislation to place us in a position to land one of the largest industrial prospects in the world.
The governor and the Legislature deserve accolades for laying their partisan differences aside and working effectively for the good of Alabama. This first legislative session of the quadrennium hopefully bodes well for good things to come over the next four years. It is certainly a good start.
Gov. Riley had gotten his ducks in a row prior to calling the special session. He invited the two presiding officers, Lt. Gov. Jim Folsom and Speaker of the House Seth Hammett, to accompany him and his economic development guru, Neal Wade, on a mission to Germany to court the industrial prospect. Riley also brought other legislative leaders in to fully inform them of the details of his incentive package. Once he got the powerful chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation Committee, Roger Bedford, on board it began to look like clear sailing. All the above mentioned legislative leaders endorsed Riley's plan prior to the beginning of the session which turned out to be a cakewalk.
There were a few grumblings about the cost of a special session and that Riley's incentive package could have been addressed in the regular session. In addition, some Black Belt legislators complained that they were being left out of the industrial expansion bandwagon occurring in the state. Other legislators expressed concern that homegrown businesses were not being given the same tax advantages as the out-of-state giants. This is probably a valid argument. However, in the end they all came together and the governor's incentive package passed overwhelmingly.
Does this herald a new day of nonpartisan statesmanship or just a temporary oasis of goodwill and harmony? I am afraid the latter is the case. The war over the leadership of the Senate is still fresh and dominant in the every thought and action of many senators. There is a festering fire brewing of volcanic proportions. Therefore, the governor's foresight and decision to isolate this incentive issue in a special session was brilliant. He realizes the rancor that exists, especially among his side that lost the battle.
The war of the Senate was postponed for the five-day special session with both sides putting down their swords temporarily for the good of the state. This issue was a no-brainer, a win-win for the state and any senator who openly opposed it would look idiotic.
The incentive issue addressed in the special session will still have to be approved by voters in June because it is a Constitutional amendment. The tax incentives are needed to help lure a German steel factory to the Mobile area along with several other prospects. The vote is required to raise the State's bond indebtedness. We have almost reached our $350 million borrowing limit.
With the passage of the governor's incentive package and if approved by voters in June, we will sweeten our offer to entice the $2.9 billion Thyssen Krupp plant which will potentially employ 2700 people in the Mobile area. We are still in stiff competition with Louisiana. However, the governor and Legislature have worked hand-in-hand to give us a good shot at landing this giant prospect.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers may be reached at www.steveflowers.us.