Last week, Alabama Secretary of Commerce Greg Canfield told the Joint Legislative Study Commission on Renewing Economic Development Incentives he would like to see the $350 million cap on economic incentives removed.
However, there is some hesitation in removing limits and allowing the state to offer unlimited economic incentives to recruit industry.
Lieutenant Gov. Will Ainsworth, who chairs the economic incentives study committee, insists the economic benefits are a net positive for the state and should not be dismissed as corporate welfare.
During an appearance on Monday's broadcast of Mobile radio FM Talk 106.5's "The Jeff Poor Show," Ainsworth argued the economic activity generated from those incentives could lead to more positives for Alabama later on down the line.
"[O]ne of the things that I was real encouraged on is a lot of times that is viewed as corporate welfare," Ainsworth said. "It is not that at all. Our state is benefiting, you know, in a big way financially from these companies coming here and the amount of investment, taxes our state is receiving because of that. And you know, why does that matter? Because obviously, if the economy is doing well, we are having more money coming to our state, then we can do things such as tax cuts for individuals.
"It was encouraging, I think, when you look at, one, how are we doing. I think really well. How do we compare to other states? You know, really well. Why is that? You look at the tax climate, you look at the workforce we have here, you look at just the overall quality of life — the school systems we have here, and I know we get knocked on that a lot, but honestly, we've got a lot of good schools. We have some obvious issues in the Black Belt and some inner cities, but across the state, you know, we get good marks from companies on the schooling system."
Ainsworth indicated economic incentives could be the tie-breaker in a business's decision to come to Alabama.
"And so, I think those are all positives," Ainsworth added. "But I think if, at the end of the day, a company is sitting there trying to decide whether or not to go here, North Carolina or South Carolina or Tennessee or Georgia or Florida, it's going to come down to the bottom line. So we want to make sure we incentivize that when we look at these companies coming in and the suppliers come in – you know, huge trickle-down effect it can have for the entire economy."
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email jeff.poor@1819News.com.
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