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A New Year’s resolution for jobs

Published 5:59am Saturday, January 7, 2012

The beginning of a new year is a time of optimism. Just look at the proverbial new years’ resolutions to lose weight, quit smoking or be a better person.

Resolutions are the very definition of hope that we’ll be better in the future.

Optimism is something we need right now. Since the start of the Great Recession in 2007, each year has greeted us with significant challenges. This year is no exception.

Alabama is still struggling with historic long-term unemployment.

While there has been modest improvement since the darkest days of the downturn, today’s jobless rate is still much too high, just under nine percent at year’s end.

What is worse is the length of time people remain unemployed. Losing a job is tough — not being able to find another after months of searching is even worse.

Democrats in the Alabama House of Representatives resolve to make jobs the number one priority in the Statehouse for 2012.
We have drafted a list of common sense bills that will create jobs for Alabamians.

As an example, we will push legislation that will make bidding on state and local public works projects focus on employing local people.

When we build roads, bridges and other infrastructure, companies should look first to our own highly skilled tradesmen and women for hires instead of bringing in temporary workers from other places.

Construction was one of the hardest hit sectors in the state economy.
The legislation we are proposing will directly affect the thousands of Alabama construction workers idled in the downturn.

Some of our other bills focus on local small businesses where most new jobs are created.

One bill significantly levels the playing field by eliminating tax loopholes out-of-state companies use as a competitive advantage.

Another sets up a loan program to help small businesses get started. All bills in the Democratic job package are practical and have measurable outcomes in creating jobs.

Possibly the most important jobs bill Democrats will sponsor — one that will really help small business — is to eliminate the sales tax on groceries.

Alabama is one of only two states that tax our daily bread. It is wrong and it must stop.

Food is one of the most significant parts of any family budget. When the state sales tax on groceries is eliminated, it will immediately put more cash into the pockets of consumers. That money will be spent locally, boosting local small business.

It was often maddening to see the Republican majority in the Legislature spend their time on anything but jobs. They concentrated on legislation that had more to do with political theater, settling scores and making headlines than getting people back to work.

As a matter of fact, the bills and budgets they passed guaranteed the loss of jobs.
Take for example the education budget, which cut the number of teachers in Alabama by more than 1,000.

That’s not just 1,000 teachers taken out of our schools; the Republican education budget cost us more than 1,000 good jobs our state can ill-afford to lose.

Furthermore, teachers are important customers for local small business. They hire tradesmen for repairs and take their families to local restaurants. Losing teachers has a negative impact that goes well beyond the classroom.

It didn’t have to be that way. Closing unfair tax loopholes used by major out-of-state corporations would have generated the needed school funding to save those teachers’ jobs while also leveling the playing field for Alabama-based businesses.

The new years’ resolution for House Democrats is to make sure job creation is the priority in Montgomery.
We have optimism there are better times ahead, and we are making plans to ensure those better times will come.

Johnny Mack Morrow is a state representative for Franklin County. His column appears each week.

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