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AL Gov on Looting Education Budget for Corporate Welfare: 'Eat What You Kill'

I had to check this several times to make sure it wasn't satire, but no... Alabama Governor Robert Bentley is writing a prescription after the election: a special Legislative session to divert money from the state's Education Trust Fund to pay for corporate welfare.

Gov. Robert Bentley said Wednesday that he plans to call a special session of the Legislature after the November election to shift from the state's General Fund to education funding to pay for economic incentives to lure new businesses.

Speaking at a workforce development summit in Washington County, Bentley noted that the state is running short on money to lure manufacturers and other larger employers. That money traditionally has come from the General Fund, which pays for Medicaid, prisons and other non-education functions of government.

But Bentley said the additional tax benefits that new businesses bring to Alabama mostly flow to the Education Trust Fund.

"Who pays for the incentives? It's not education, but they benefit from it totally. ... You ought to eat what you kill," he said. 

"Eat what you kill?"  WTH?  Is he writing his own prescriptions for controlled substances now?  This isn't the first time Bentley has suggested this plan:

"If education is benefiting from it, we need to look and see if some of the incentive money should come from that way. ... Whoever benefits ought to pay." 

But... but.... isn't that the way it works NOW? Who's supposed to benefit from new jobs? The people who get those jobs and the communities where they spend their paychecks.  Hello, Governor?  Those people are already paying because the state for years has looted the General Fund to pay for "incentives." That's money that is not available to pay for essential state services and only the separation of the General Fund from the Education Trust Fund has protected the school funding. 

He's been clear about his priorities for quite a while.  Witness the outlandish bidding war over Boeing at the end of last year:

Bentley isn't saying how big Alabama's offer was. But he said that after landing several big projects — including Boeing's competitor, Airbus, for a $600 million plant in Mobile — the state will need to create new financial incentives because its current ones are about used up.

To recruit Airbus in 2012, Alabama provided a variety of state and local tax breaks and $158 million for bond expenses, site and road improvements, building costs and worker training. That plant is supposed to create about 1,000 jobs. 

Let's look at why the General Fund is "running short of money" to make these welfare payments pay these "incentives."  Between state and local governments, our checkbooks are open and our eyes are closed:  

Can it be that Bentley got this idea from North Alabama?  After all, Decatur asked Limestone County Schools to help fund a huge retail development called "Sweetwater" in 2013.  Why? This sounds familiar:

Limestone County Commissioner Gary Daly said the school system is likely to see an additional $1 million per year from the development and should "ante up." 

It wasn't enough that Sweetwater was going to be partially funded with $40 million in sales tax rebates. No, they went after school money, too. 

Instead of raiding school funding to get even more money to give away, why aren't we asking the obvious question:  Do these giveaways/incentives actually pay for themselves and benefit the state? Nobody in Alabama state government can answer that question, unfortunately.

Are the jobs worth the cost to taxpayers?  We'll never know because Alabama has no evaluation program in place to show what we get in exchange for $277 million in corporate gifts.  A recent Pew Research Center report indicates that most states, like Alabama, don't properly evaluate the effectiveness of tax incentives and other "job creation" giveaways.  Our public officials are blindly throwing money at corporations and thankful to get any crumb of economic development in return ... plus a photo-op at the groundbreaking ceremony.

This is important.  Every dollar spent on tax incentives, infrastructure or other giveaways to attract business and jobs is a dollar local and state governments can't spend on education, health care, transportation for the rest of us and critical government services.  As the recent Medicaid funding crisis illustrated, Alabama doesn't have any dollars to spare.  Incentive programs ought to be monitored to make sure taxpayers are getting a good deal, not just giving free money to corporations. 

Governor Bentley isn't suggesting that. He just wants to take, take, take from the schools and give, give, give to big business.

Read here what Lt. Governor candidate James Fields has to say about that strategy. 

UPDATE:  The Governor is now explaining that whatever people thought they heard him say, or whatever he said...he didn't mean it that way. Or something.

 

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