Governor Kay Ivey on Thursday signed into law a package of economic incentives bills.
House Bill 241 by State Rep. Danny Garrett (R-Trussville) passed the Senate by a vote of 29-6 with most of the opposition focusing on a new portion of the bill that would give tax rebates to tourism projects.
The bill would extend the sunset dates to 2028 and increase the incentives cap on the Alabama Jobs Act and the Growing Alabama Act. The legislation would also allow for new tourism incentives for qualifying projects with a minimum investment of $35 million.
An amendment increasing the required minimum investment for tourism projects failed in a Senate committee on Wednesday.
“The Game Plan will give Alabama’s team the tools it needs to extend our winning record in economic development and help us unleash a new wave of growth and innovation across the state,” Ivey said at a bill signing on Thursday afternoon. “From our rural areas to our big cities, this is going to benefit every corner of Alabama.”
State Senate President Pro Tem Greg Reed (R-Jasper) told reporters after the bills were signed into law on Thursday: “If we don’t participate, then other states are going to be ahead of us in this process.”
“Do I wish that it was to where there wasn’t any of this competitiveness and we just were able to enjoy all the glory of these companies coming to Alabama without a recruitment environment that exists nationwide? Sure, but that’s not reality,” Reed said. “The reality is we must continue to work in an appropriate way with good tools like we just passed to recruit great industries which allow jobs for our citizenry in Alabama.
State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur) said on the Senate floor Thursday the tourism incentives in the bill were “disturbing.”
“Every time we chip away, take away trying to do some good, just remember it comes at some cost,” Orr said. “This is not Washington D.C. Every time there’s a winner, there’s a loser because we have limited funds. So on this one there’s going to be some winners in the tourism business.”
State Sen. Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville), an economic development lawyer, said he supports economic incentives but he’s “deeply troubled about this bill in where we’re going on the tourism aspect of it.”
“It’s my understanding, and maybe I’m wrong about this, this would even be retroactive to people who have already chosen to make an investment and we would be giving them a tax incentive for an investment that’s already been made,” Givhan said.
The other four votes against the bill were State Sen. Vivian Figures (D-Mobile), State Sen. Tim Melson (R-Florence), State Sen. Dan Roberts (R-Mountain Brook) and State Sen. Shay Shelnutt (R-Trussville).
Under the legislation, qualifying tourism-related companies would be limited to $1 million in tax rebates per calendar year. Tourism destination attractions that qualify for the program include theme parks, water parks, entertainment parks, museums, motor speedways, professional sports facilities, natural or scenic landscape attractions, waterfront marine facilities, and aquariums. The tourism aspect of the bill would have a $10 million annual cap on tax rebates.
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