By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
The Alabama Jobs Foundation released a statement commenting on a US Bureau of Labor Statistics report this week showing that over the last year Alabama ranked dead last among Southeastern states in job growth over the past 12 months.
Former Alabama Power CEO Charles McCrary said that this shows that the referendum on gaming is needed now more than ever.
“The Marsh Plan, if approved by the voters, would create 11,000 jobs and produce a $1 billion annual economic impact,” McCrary said. “The people of Alabama are hurting and I do not understand why we don’t let the voters decide whether they want these jobs or not.”
McCrary said, “The only way to turn our State around is to provide jobs and invest in education to train people as a productive workforce. The Marsh Plan achieves both these goals without offering a single penny of state incentive money to produce these jobs.”
The Alabama Jobs Foundation optimistic assessment of gaming is based on a study, conducted by the Institute for Accountability and Government Efficiency at Auburn University of Montgomery (AUM) on behalf of Alabama Senate Pro Tem Del Marsh (R from Anniston) and released on April 27.
The AUM study estimated that Alabama lottery and casino gaming would create a $1.2 billion annual economic impact for the State of Alabama, while generating almost $400 million in new revenue for state programs and creating more than 11,000 new jobs if casino gaming is allowed at the current dog tracks in Mobile, Birmingham, Macon and Greene County.
Senator Marsh said in a statement, “This is an extraordinary finding by the AUM group and clearly finds that casino gaming and a lottery would have a major economic impact on Alabama. These two ideas will generate hundreds of millions of new dollars for State programs at a time when essential government services may be cut and 11,000 new jobs that will positively impact families throughout our State.”
The AUM study predicted that an Alabama lottery will generate $332 million annually for state programs, while casino gaming, which would allow Class III gaming like table games and slot machines, would generate an additional $74 million. The State’s share, based upon a state tax rate of 14 percent, would be $64 million.
McCrary is a founding board member of the Alabama Jobs Foundation.
The Marsh Plan would allow casino style table games and slot machines at the four constitutionally approved racetracks currently operating in Alabama. The plan would also create an education lottery that would fund Alabama schools and provide scholarships for higher education and technical training.
McCrary said he believes that economic development recruiters in Alabama are doing their best to compete for new business and industry, but the state’s financial condition and inadequate funding for infrastructure and education make their job difficult.
The Alabama Jobs Foundation is chaired by former Auburn Coach Pat Dye, was formed to help promote a statewide vote on the Marsh Plan.
McCrary said, “The Marsh Plan presents a real alternative to raising taxes to meet future needs. We cannot increase taxes when job creation is lagging so greatly. All the legislature has to do is trust the people to decide whether we should stop the flow of gaming dollars to surrounding states by allowing these more competitive games at the four racetracks where gambling has already been approved through votes of the people.”
The Poarch Band of Creek Indians (PCI) oppose the Marsh plan because they feel it would over saturate the gaming industry in this State. PCI is running an ad campaign encouraging voters to pressure legislators to support their package which would give the State a $250 million one-time payment in exchange for the state agreeing not to expand gaming beyond the PCI owned facilities.
These two plans, cutting the budget, and Gov. Bentley’s call for $310 million in new taxes will all be considered then the legislature returns to their special session on August 3.