Staying ‘in the game'

Published 8:27 pm Monday, June 4, 2007

By By Kerry Whipple Bean – publisher
Alabama has landed some big economic development fish in recent years - but if an amendment on Tuesday's ballot fails, the bait could run out.
Amendment One seeks to increase the amount of money the state can borrow under the Capital Improvement Trust Fund. The current limit is $350 million; the amendment would raise that limit to $750 million.
The amendment does not raise anyone's taxes to pay for the increase in the bond limit, Blankenship said. That's been one misconception in the state about Amendment One, he said.
About $190 million of the additional $400 million would go to incentives that lured ThyssenKrupp, a German steelmaker which plans to build a $3.7 billion facility in south Alabama. The other money would be for projects across the state, Blankenship said.
Alabama needs the extra money for incentives because it has been so successful landing projects like ThyssenKrupp, which is the largest private economic development project in the country.
Gov. Bob Riley said the amendment is needed to keep Alabama competitive for more projects.
The debt service on the bonds will be funded by offshore oil and gas drilling and production in the Gulf of Mexico, Riley said.
A second amendment on the ballot would create a trust fund to help cover health-care costs for retired state employees and education employees.
Under new federal regulations, the state's bond rating could be lowered unless Alabama sets aside money specifically for those benefits. A lower bond rating would likely force the state to pay higher interest rates when borrowing money.