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Education Incentives and Economic Development Incentives Go Hand In Hand

By Sen. Cam Ward

Lost amid the tumult and subsequent hullaballoo after we passed the historic Alabama Accountability Act last Thursday was the preceding bill on the calendar: The Alabama Commercial Aviation Business Improvement Act which passed out of the Senate on a 32-0 vote.

This Act will close certain legal loopholes, putting Alabama on the same legal grounds as our neighbors in Florida and Mississippi, encouraging Tier 1 and Tier 2 Airbus suppliers to locate in Alabama and employ Alabamians.

The two pieces of legislation, one legalistic and arcane to those not involved in lawsuits or economic development incentives; the other a dynamite charge under the twin forces of entrenchment and entitlement in our education system would appear at first glance not to have anything to do with each other. One was passed with no opposition, and the other quite possibly the most controversial in process and policy since I was elected the first time. Yet they are both exemplary of what we are trying to accomplish since the voters swept in a new Republican majority in 2010.

FDR promised a chicken in every pot, and my political hero Ronald Reagan declared government to be the problem. The truth lies somewhere in between. Government should not, cannot and will not replace hard work, perseverance and entrepreneurship as the keys to a better life and a better economy. It also shouldn’t hold people back from those same opportunities. It should incentivize hard work and discipline.

The Alabama Accountability Act does that by freeing parents and students to opt out of failing schools, and providing them the means through tax refunds and scholarships to attend the best schools available, public or private. It does not attack teachers. It does not destroy teacher tenure. And it does not affect the right to a quality public education. I would argue it protects all three by incentivizing ingenuity and adaptation through shaking up the status quo, stemming the tide of resentment against over taxation and wasteful spending. If people feel better about the product being provided via tax dollars they’ll be less apt to protest the collection in the first place.

The Alabama Commercial Aviation Business Improvement Act does the same thing. It gives the Tier 1 and Tier 2 Airbus suppliers a better reason to locate in our state – thus providing more of our citizens the opportunity to show that Alabama is second to none in smart hardworking citizens seeking a better life for their families.

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Education, Workforce Development and Job Creation are all tied together like the strings on a Christmas present. These two bills are part of an early Christmas present for the people of Alabama – and by their good faith and hardwork, they are getting 5000 jobs and a better education system, not coal and switches.

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