Archived Story

Recent success shows we don’t have to rob Peter to pay Paul

Published 5:59am Saturday, July 14, 2012

In the last legislative session, one of the biggest battles that took place was over a bill that would allow select corporations to keep their workers’ state income taxes — money that is earmarked for schools — as incentive to keep existing plants open or establish new ones.

It sounded like robbing Peter to pay Paul.

All told, these “incentives” could cost our schools well beyond $500 million in education funding, diverted to the bottom-line of companies.

The governor said it was absolutely necessary to pass the bill for future economic development.

He made it sound like the very competitiveness of the state was at stake.

Fortunately, this bill was defeated with strong opposition from Democrats and a few Republicans.

Last week, it was announced that Alabama would land Airbus.

The European aircraft manufacturer is going to build a plant to assemble their popular A320 passenger jets.

Manufacturing this kind of aircraft is something that few states — or countries — do.

The plant will be located in Mobile, and Airbus expects to employ more than 1,000 workers.

As we found in the automotive industry, more than likely there will be thousands of additional jobs with suppliers locating nearby.

Regardless of your political affiliation or where you live in Alabama, having Airbus come is an extraordinary achievement and a major advancement of Alabama industry.

It could be a game-changer similar to when Gov. Folsom brought Mercedes to Alabama in the 1990s.

It is also important to point out that bringing Airbus to Mobile did not cost the state one dime in education funding. Not one dime.

That is not to say it was not costly.

Airbus has been promised about $158 million in state and local taxpayer dollars.

But attracting this kind of industry to our state can be a wise investment.

The money invested by Democrats for the automotive industry has come back tenfold, employing more than 40,000 Alabamians today.

The auto industry, the state’s largest manufacturing sector, was brought to Alabama without raiding education funds. In fact, no industrial incentive plan has ever used school money.

It is a good rule.

Companies are not going to open businesses in a community where the work force lacks the basic education and skills necessary to do the job.

One of the reasons we are able to attract international manufacturers is because of Alabama workers are dedicated, hard working and have the necessary skills and training.

Without adequate schools, not only will we lose future businesses and industries, but we also run the risk of losing the jobs Airbus and other companies are bringing to workers in neighboring states.

The only way our schools can do their job is if we provide them with the necessary resources. Right now we are not doing that.

Investing in education is essential for the long-term economic health of our state.

We do not have to rob our schools to bring business and industry to Alabama. Airbus has proved that.

 

 

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

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