Everybody else does it, so we have to.

Basically, that is what Republican lawmakers have told constituents about the state's use of economic incentives, which they will readily acknowledge in theory, is a gross violation of free market economics.

Still, the Alabama Legislature will consider renewing economic incentives under the Alabama Jobs Act when it returns from spring break next week.

Currently, incentives are presently capped at $350 million annually. However, if Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield had his way, he would eliminate the cap.

State Sen. Arthur Orr (R-Decatur), the Alabama Senate education budget committee chairman, says he is one of those who takes the reluctant approach to incentives renewal.

During an interview with FM Talk 106.5's "The Jeff Poor Show," the Morgan County Republican lawmaker said there was no choice given the nature of competing for large-scale economic projects.

However, he said he would like to see a federal prohibition on the oft-used practice of economic development through incentives if he had his way.

"I think when we go back, the focus will be on the economic development incentive package and how best to get a reasonable product but pass something nonetheless because our current economic development incentives expire in July," he said. "So, our backs are against the wall to continue those incentives in some form. Being the good Republican that you are and I am, we don't like to give incentives. But when you're going head to head against other states for projects, you really have no choice."

"I'd love to see, Jeff, something — and you've got a lot of Washington experience — I'd love to see some kind of federal prohibition on states or even local governments giving out incentives so no state can do it and we're not in this game of one-upping our competitors trying to land jobs and projects. The only exception to that would be if perhaps you had an international competition. I recall several years ago working on one where we were battling against Ontario for a project, and we got it. But that would certainly have been the exception."

Orr said overall he had been satisfied with the job Alabama had done with incentives but cited two exceptions that he said had questionable outcomes: the $195 million in incentives granted in 2006 to then-ThyssenKrupp for a steel manufacturing plant in North Mobile County and the nearly $200 million in state and local incentives it took to bring China's Golden Dragon Copper to economically beleaguered Wilcox County in 2012.

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 jeff.poor@1819News.com or follow him on Twitter @jeff_poor.

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