Extending Alabama's incentives programs is "something we need to tackle right away" in the upcoming legislative session, according to new State Rep. Phillip Rigsby (R-Huntsville).
The Alabama Jobs Act offers various tax credits and abatements to qualifying new and existing businesses in Alabama. The law is scheduled to end on July 31, 2023, unless an extension is passed in the upcoming legislative session.
Members of the Joint Legislative Study Commission on Economic Development Incentives recommended in December that the Alabama Legislature consider increasing the $350 million cap on Alabama Jobs Act economic development incentives and extending the law's sunset date for another five years until July 30, 2028.
"I think the biggest one we've got to do right off the bat is the JOBS Act and the incentives for businesses," Rigsby said in a recent interview with 1819 News. "I think that's put Alabama on the map for new business in the last several years. That's sunsetting. I think that's something we need to tackle right away. I know that's probably on the Speaker's agenda as well. I'll be in full support of that. The data that I'm seeing with a return of 170% to the state…to me, it's just a no-brainer. I think that's really going to help the state continue to succeed. How we help that with rural Alabama, I think that's a challenge that we are needing to address. I think you're seeing the metropolitan areas, the Mobiles and the Huntsvilles really benefit from that. We need to see what we can do to incentivize maybe some rural jobs as well. That also starts with helping students enter the workforce right away, so I think there's an aspect that we have to address as well."
Rigsby, a pharmacist, graduated from SR Butler High School in 1994. He then attended Auburn University and completed pharmacy school with a Doctor of Pharmacy degree in 2000. He began working at Huntsville Compounding Pharmacy and The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy in 2004. He later purchased both in 2015 and continues to work as a pharmacist at both locations, according to his campaign site.
"The reason I got into being a pharmacist is because I wanted to help people," Rigsby told 1819 News. "I think the mentality of most pharmacists is that they're really concerned about the people that they serve. You have a genuine concern for those people that walk through your doors. We're good listeners. Pharmacists are really good at analyzing things, determining things, figuring stuff out, and we're not afraid to learn new things because pharmacy is ever-changing. Those aspects of caring for our customers, caring for our patients, being willing to listen and willing to learn quickly really helps us when it comes to serving in capacities like politics. I don't consider myself a politician. I don't want to be known as a politician. I hope to be found faithful to what God has called me to do and really be known as somebody who served the public, a true public servant."
Rigsby is married to his wife, Pamela. They have two sons, Parker and Preston. They are founding members of Providence Baptist Church. He currently serves as chaplain of the Monrovia Volunteer Fire Rescue and is a former youth soccer referee.
"Nothing comes at you harder than an irritated soccer parent," Rigsby said.
Rigsby said education was the most common issue he heard about from voters on the campaign trail.
"Everybody is concerned with education across the state," Rigsby emphasized. "We are kind of sheltered a little bit up here in North Alabama. We have some really great schools up here, but we're not without our issues as well. My wife is a previous educator. I'm hoping to be able to use the experience of being a product of public school and having a wife as a former educator to kind of help shed some light to provide teachers with what they need and students an environment that we can learn so that we can help the Governor get into that top-30 spot that she's hoping to get us to."
Rigsby is slated to serve on the Health; Commerce and Small Business; and the Constitution, Campaigns, and Elections committees.
"I think that fits with me as a pharmacist and a small business owner," Rigsby stated. "I think Health and Small Business will be great things that I can kind of shed light (on). I'll be the only pharmacist in the House. Being able to talk about drug pricing and (pharmacy benefit managers) and health care and medical marijuana and all of those things from a pharmacist dispensing point-of-view, I think will be beneficial to the conversation."
With the state's sizeable budget surplus, Rigsby said, "[I]f I look at it from a business owner point-of-view, I ask myself the question, 'If I had a surplus in my business, what would I do?'"
"With the market being what it has been nationally, my gut would be to save it as a business owner to help us maybe in a rainy day, depending on what the economy does as we go forward and coming elections in two years and how that's going to go," he added. "I'm also a proponent of it's the people's money, and if there's a way we can give a rebate that would be significant to the taxpayer, I don't know that I would be opposed to that. As a small business owner, I do tend to be a little more conservative because I try to think about what would I do if my business had a surplus. That would be some of the things that I would be looking at as we have these discussions down the road."
Regarding school choice, Rigsby said that "it's going to take a little more education on my part to understand how that would affect different areas of the state because it is going to matter differently to different areas of the state."
"Huntsville, Madison County, Madison City, even Limestone that I serve…they have decent schools," he said. "We're getting good education up here, but there are probably a subset of even within those schools that may benefit from a school choice option. Whether it's more magnet schools…I know we have the Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering up here. That's a great option for local students here. I know there are several options here for kids. There would be some discussion that we need to have about how school choice affects different areas of the state and what that need would be, and how that would look. Is that going to be tax credits? Is that going to be a voucher program? How are we really going to address that, and who is going to benefit? My big thing is, no matter what we do…how are we going to measure it? How are we going to stay on top of it as opposed to just throwing money at something saying we did something?"
Rigsby went on to say, "that's what we do in my business," adding, "[W]e may try something new, but we have to evaluate what our return on investment (is)."
"What's the benefit to our patients?" Rigsby asked. "There's so many things that you have to do that we just can't start a program and throw money at it and go, 'Well, we did something.' I think with education, we've got to have a different mindset of let's not be afraid to try something but let's be willing to evaluate it and scrutinize it and then if needed, scrap it or change it. I think that's what we're going to have to do in the state of Alabama with education, whether that's through school choice or public schools or whatever it is. We've got to look at all these things with a little bit of scrutiny and be willing to be brave enough to evaluate if this is effective or not. If not, what can we do differently?"
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email caleb.taylor@1819News.com.
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