Legislators pass several jobs billsPublished 7:43pm Friday, February 10, 2012
State lawmakers made jobs bills their top priority to open the 2012 regular session, with the House passing three bills Thursday to create incentive packages for certain industries.
But a set of two bills that would create an incentive program to give income tax breaks to industries has raised the ire of Alabama Education Association officials who say the bills would rob schools of earmarked funds for education.
“AEA has supported and continues to support legislation that creates jobs and expands the economy,” AEA Executive Directory Henry Mabry said Friday in a conference call with reporters, noting that the education lobbying organization did not oppose the bills aimed at incentives for specific industries or one that would give tax breaks to companies that hire recent military veterans.
But House bills 159 and 160 — the first of which sets up a vote on a constitutional amendment for the income tax breaks incentive package and the second which authorizes the governor to pick which companies are granted the tax breaks — “are not jobs bills,” Mabry said.
“This legislation will cripple the income tax that goes to public schools.”
Because a portion of state income tax is earmarked for public schools to the Education Trust Fund, Mabry said the legislation will take money from schools. “It will bleed the Education Trust Fund of hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said.
But lawmakers said Thursday the package of bills is aimed at increasing employment in Alabama — which would in turn provide new revenue.
“As much progress as Alabama has made reducing unemployment faster than any state and adding 41,000 jobs since last year, too many people are still without work in this tough economy,” House Speaker Mike Hubbard said. “That’s why our number one focus is boosting private sector job growth and getting more Alabamians back to work. We have legislation designed to help existing businesses grow and hire more workers, and give our state more tools to recruit new jobs.”
Among the bills that passed Thursday:
An incentive package to focus on recruiting more data processing centers.
A special tax incentive to target aircraft manufacturers and aircraft parts manufacturers.
Enhanced incentives for job-creating coal mining projects.
Also up for debate next week will be a “Heroes for Hire” tax credit plan that would give businesses a $2,000 tax credit for hiring a veteran recently returned from war.
“I am pleased that House members have given these bills the priority and attention they deserve,” Bentley said. “The measures approved today all have one common goal, and that is putting Alabamians back to work. Together, we can continue to help Alabama’s economy recover faster than the national economy.”