Earlier this year, a title wave of op-eds on various Alabama news websites exalted Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey’s economic incentive “Game Plan,” which moved smoothly through the legislature and officially became law in April, extending special privileges and rewards to specific corporations.
The plan called for renewing programs, such as the Alabama Jobs Act (AJA), which offers tax credits and abatements to certain businesses in Alabama.
Economic incentive proponents argue that special privileges and awards attract more business to the state and create jobs. Opponents suggest that there is no evidence economic incentive programs work, and the state could attract business and encourage in-state entrepreneurship by reducing regulative and tax burdens for everyone.
Powerful organizations, such as the Business Council of Alabama (BCA), lobby for economic incentives. The BCA included AJA expansion in its four-year plan earlier this year.
In March, 1819 News found evidence that the BCA and Alabama Power were even pressuring trustees at Troy University to censor a free-market think tank associated with the school because an economist criticized economic incentive programs at one of its events.
One of the much-celebrated promises made by this year’s economic incentive expansion was increased transparency. SB-151, also known as the Transparency in Incentives Act (TIA), was one of four bills included in the “Game Plan” package.
The TIA requires the Alabama Department of Commerce, the Alabama Department of Revenue and the Alabama Department of Finance to “collectively report, no later than January 1 of each year, the aggregate amount of incentives committed by tax source on executed project agreements during the past fiscal year.”
The law went into effect on Saturday.
A 2021 report found that between 1993 and 2020, Alabama offered over $4 billion in tax incentives.
However, Alabama Department of Commerce governmental relations and marketing manager Stefania Jones told 1819 News this week that the TIA is only applicable to future projects and, since no new economic incentives have been offered since Saturday, there is no information the department is required by law to publish at this time.
Jones said the Alabama Department of Commerce will update the website as soon as it enters into an agreement to incentive a new project.
Alabama Department of Commerce deputy secretary Angela Till told 1819 News that the TIA requires the Department of Commerce to publish “certain information concerning each project incentivized under the Jobs Act, including the estimated value of the jobs credit and the estimated value of the investment credit.” This does not include tax abatements.
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