By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY–House Bill 159 and 160 have come under fire from Democrats and most notability by the AEA since it introduction at the beginning of the 2012 Legislative session.
However, in what might be an unusual twist of fate, it is not the Democrats or the AEA that stop the bills, rather conservative republicans.
“We keep giving incentives to any and every businesses without even questioning it, when are we going to say. ‘enough is enough,’” said a senate republican who wished to not be identified, for this article.
HB159 seeks to rewrite the Alabama Constitution so that some individual income taxes paid by corporations would be kept by companies to repay their costs of buying new equipment, expanding factories or making other capital improvements. The governor would have to approve each company getting such a benefit.
Income taxes paid by corporations are a major means of funding the Alabama Education Trust Fund.
The bill received a contentious passage in the House and is now before the Senate Finance and Taxation, Education Committee.
Before passing to the Senate, deputy state school Superintendent Craig Pouncey, spoke against the plan saying, “If you take those income-tax dollars away and they’re not available, what are you going to use to replace them?”
Pouncey said that most all state income-tax collections currently are reserved for the payment of public school teachers’ salaries, under a constitutional amendment that state voters approved in 1947.
In the senate committee the bill drew fire from Senator Vivian Davis Figures (D-Mobile).
Figures became animated after Senator Phil Williams (R-Rainbow City) presented House Bill 159 as a bill to give tax incentive packages for retaining and drawing new manufacturing jobs to Alabama. Figures said that last year Williams had touted the bill to save Goodyear [in his district of Gadsden] and that is why she had voted for the bill.
She expressed her reservations strongly and the committee meeting spiraled into a direct confrontation.
According to scorces within a conservative element of the GOP, there are those who believe that the bill goes too far with tax incentives. “Giving tax breaks to corporations to do business in Alabama is not a conservative principle,” said the source. “ I understand that every state is doing it, and I am will to make so concessions but this bill goes too far.” Others predict the bill will die in the senate because of the generous tax incentives and the fact that it gives almost total power to the Governor to exercises the program.
Another GOP Senator said, “I don’t want this governor or any governor having that kind of power over such and expansive program.” Adding, “We put in a little sweetener, now that want to give them the whole sugar plantation.”
Yet another GOP operative said that the joke going around Montgomery was that when the dems were in power they would have people come to Montgomery and Kowtow to them before they gave them government handouts. Now, he said, “We Republicans just ship it to our friends.”
HB159 and 160 are still before the Senate but time is on the side of its opponents and they are not all Democrats and the AEA.