Next week, the Alabama Legislature is expected to proceed with a final vote on extending its economic incentives program, which state-level policymakers have touted as vital to the state's economic success.

Former State Sen. Trip Pittman (R-Fairhope) said the incentive programs are both good and bad.

"Going back to Mercedes, which turns out a pretty good project — there's some need for incentives," Pittman said. "But they should be very limited, targeted or none at all in an ideal world. But if you're going to have other states that do it, you ought to have some, but they ought to be finite, and they ought to sunset, and there ought to be accounting and transparency. I'm glad to see there's a transparency bill. I don't know how transparent it will be, but there needs to be light of day on what we are giving away, to who and how much."

One drawback the former Baldwin County lawmaker said was that incentives can drive up the price of labor for the state's existing business as demand for labor increases. However, he suggested the state's business community cherishes the role of picking winners and losers.

"You know, you have the chamber crowd, the chamber of commerce crowd — people who blur that relationship, you know, the mixed economy," he said. "People call us free enterprise, which we have a lot of — but we're a fascist economy in a lot of ways because you blend the marriage between government and the private sector. The government picks the winners and losers. You have authorities, different creations like the power company and various other oligarchs, educational institutions that really don't have any checks or balances, health insurance companies."

"People are trying to figure out how it enhances their lives, not necessarily the average individual," Pittman added. "There are some residual benefits, the rising tide theory, which can work. But I think that is in the broader macroeconomy, doing good things like a good environment doing reasonable tort, which we still have some of in Alabama. You need low taxes. You need good power supplies. You need low property taxes. You need good infrastructure. Those are the kinds of things you need to have a level playing field. Then you let businesses decide where they want to locate and don't get in there and pay them to pay to play."

Jeff Poor is the executive editor of 1819 News and host of "The Jeff Poor Show," heard Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-noon on Mobile's FM Talk 106.5. To connect or comment, email [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @jeff_poor.

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