Baldwin County voters are going to be able to go to the polls to vote on whether to approve a constitutional amendment allowing the construction of a toll road extending the Baldwin Beach Express from Interstate 10 to Interstate 65.
The new 24 miles of road will go from Loxley where the existing Beach Express dumps its traffic on I-10 now north to a point on I-65 just to the northeast of Bay Minette.
If Baldwin County voters approve the amendment, it will create a toll authority to pay for it.
The Baldwin Beach Express is 28 miles long, but to get there from I-65 presently takes a 29 mile journey through the towns of Bay Minette and Spanish Fort on Rabun Road, AL-287, AL-59, and I-10 E. This would shave five miles off a trip to the beach as well as more time by making it a much more direct shot. It could save 15 minutes time for light traffic, but it would be especially helpful during the peak times in the vacation season when tourists flocking to the Gulf Beaches can make the existing roads through Baldwin County to the beach congested.
An analysis of the proposed route also revealed that the entire route, as well as thousands of acres on both sides of the new highway, is in an opportunity zone.
Opportunity zones were created by Congress in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.
According to the IRS, an “Opportunity Zone is an economically-distressed community where new investments, under certain conditions, may be eligible for preferential tax treatment. Localities qualify as Opportunity Zones if they have been nominated for that designation by the state and that nomination has been certified by the Secretary of the U.S. Treasury via his delegation of authority to the Internal Revenue Service.”
Alabama Governor Kay Ivey studied all of the census tracts in the state and elected a portion of Baldwin County from the current AL-287/AL-59 route east to the Florida line and bounded by I-65 to the North and I-10 to the South as one large Opportunity Zone.
The IRS explains that: “Opportunity Zones are designed to spur economic development by providing tax benefits to investors. First, investors can defer tax on any prior gains invested in a Qualified Opportunity Fund (QOF) until the earlier of the date on which the investment in a QOF is sold or exchanged, or December 31, 2026. If the QOF investment is held for longer than 5 years, there is a 10% exclusion of the deferred gain. If held for more than 7 years, the 10% becomes 15%. Second, if the investor holds the investment in the Opportunity Fund for at least ten years, the investor is eligible for an increase in basis of the QOF investment equal to its fair market value on the date that the QOF investment is sold or exchanged.”
Investment firms have created opportunity funds to take advantage of these tax savings.
According to their website, the Fundrise Opportunity Zones find it could be possible to pay as little as $0 in capital gains taxes on your next decade of investment returns.
Using the calculator on the website, if you had $250,000 in capital gains to invest today and expected 8 percent annual returns after five years that money would have grown to $285,856 after taxes versus just $258,628 if the money were invested in a conventional stock portfolio that produced the same annual return of 8 percent. If the money was held for seven years the after tax value of the Opportunity fund would climb to $335,408 versus just $294,119 in a conventional stock portfolio, IF both were producing 8 percent annual returns. If you hold the money in the fund for ten years that jumps to $489,156 versus only $358,730 for a traditional stock portfolio. If the returns are the same, the tax advantages of the Opportunity Zone fund means that that investor has $130,426 more net worth at the end of ten years from the same investment.
The calculator allows you to input any amount and select from a menu of interest rate options. For a more aggressive investor who is expecting 12 percent annual returns the advantage for investing in the Opportunity Funds swells to $229,700 over the decade.
The tax code changes in 2017 are what makes this work.
An investor who has triggered a capital gain by selling an asset like stocks or real estate receives special tax benefits if they roll that gain into an Opportunity Fund within 180 days. There are three primary advantages to rolling over a capital gain into an Opportunity fund. First, that investor is able to defer the payment of their capital gains taxes until Dec 31, 2026. Second, by investing in an Opportunity Zone fund the IRS reduces the tax you owe by up to 15 percent after 7 years. Third, the investor pays zero tax on gains earned from the Opportunity Fund itself.
This allows investors to avoid paying high taxes, while they are helping to improve the lives of people in economically distressed communities like rural Baldwin County.
How this translates to the toll road is if the toll road project were done as a for-profit corporation instead of as a government entity the toll road itself could qualify as an Opportunity Zone project if approved by ADECA and the U.S. Treasury.
The Alabama State Legislature has further sweetened the pot by targeting state economic incentives to the Opportunity Zones.
Perhaps coincidentally, the massive I-10 toll bridge project over the Mobile River is also located in an Opportunity Zone, potentially giving those investors enormous tax advantages, if the toll bridge is approved as an Opportunity Zone project.
If the Mobile River toll bridge were done as an opportunity zone project, anticipating an 8 percent annual return on investment, the investors could receive $521,702,000 over the next ten years in tax advantages versus building it without the bridge qualifying as an Opportunity Zone project.
There is also an Opportunity Zone declared along a portion of the already existing Beach Express in South Baldwin County.
The Baldwin County Commission has asked for $11 million in RESTORE money from the BP oil spill settlement in order to purchase land for the toll road. Construction on this is likely still years away even if it is approved by voters.
Brooks to vote no on Democratic infrastructure bill
Congressman Mo Brooks, R-Alabama, said he will vote no this week on a Democratic infrastructure bill in the House, which he said was “socialism” cloaked in an infrastructure bill.
“Nancy Pelosi & her Socialist comrades are hellbent on destroying America,” Brooks claimed. “They won’t stop spending until America is bankrupt. They covet economic disaster so they can rebuild a Socialist America under the guise of providing economic relief. In this instance, Socialism comes cloaked as an infrastructure bill.”
Brooks cited as examples of excessive spending $29.3 billion in grants and subsidies to Amtrak’s intercity passenger rail service, $500 million a year to pay ports to replace their cargo handling equipment, hundreds of billions for public housing and “shifting funding from roads, streets, bridges and highways badly needed by red states like Alabama to subsidies of blue state inner-city mass transit programs.”
HR2, the Invest in America Act, is sponsored by Congressman Peter DeFazio of Oregon.
“The Socialists’ latest attempt to bankrupt America is a 2,300+ page bill, drafted behind closed doors by a select few, introduced just last week, that increases America’s debt and deficits by $1.5 trillion!” Brooks claimed. “That’s $1.5 trillion America doesn’t have, has to borrow to get, and cannot afford to pay back. America’s national debt blew through $23 trillion in November, $24 trillion in April, $25 trillion in May, and $26 trillion in June.”
“In April, the Congressional Budget Office (“CBO”) estimated a fiscal year 2020 $3.7 trillion deficit — without including this $1.5 trillion monstrosity,” Brooks said. “Both the CBO and America’s Comptroller General Gene Dodaro regularly describe America’s financial state as ‘unsustainable,’ accounting language for insolvency and bankruptcy.”
“Incredible as it may seem, even without this $1.5 trillion monstrosity, the federal government is on a course to spend roughly $50,000 per American household this year!” Brooks said. “Of course, that spending must first be taken from taxpayers in the form of higher taxes or greater debt. History proves you can’t spend and borrow your way to prosperity. America is no exception.”
“Socialist Democrats call HR2 an infrastructure bill,” Brooks said. “The fact is, the bill contains more that would impede infrastructure projects than spur them. The bill is chock-full of new top-down, one size fits all Washington mandates and bureaucratic hurdles.”
Both President Donald Trump and congressional Democrats have been urging Congress to pass an infrastructure bill, but the two sides have been unable to agree on just what should be in the infrastructure bill. Republicans like Brooks have expressed concerns over growing the national debt on an infrastructure building spree paid for with growing budget deficits.
Brooks is serving in his fifth term representing Alabama’s 5th Congressional District.
Shelby announces $10.75 million for improvements to Alabama airports
U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, R-Ala., today announced that 16 local airports across the state of Alabama will receive a total of $10,750,845 in Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grants for improvements to airport infrastructure. The grant funding, awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), has been made available through annual appropriations measures, as well as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) of 2020.
“Improvements to infrastructure at the local level are important for economic development in our communities,” said Senator Shelby. “I am pleased that these 16 airports will receive nearly $11 million to enhance safety and boost aviation advancements. This is great news for each of these areas and will advance economic growth. I look forward to the positive impact this funding will have throughout Alabama.”
The FAA grants are administered through Fiscal Year 2020 Airport Improvement Program (AIP) annual and supplemental awards. Additionally, funds provided through the CARES Act serve as the local match for the infrastructure grants.
A total of 16 grants were awarded to local airports in Alabama, amounting to $10,750,845 for the following airport projects:
- South Alabama Regional Airport-Bill Benton Field, Sanford, Alabama – $166,666 to construct, extend, and improve the safety area
- Auburn University Regional Airport, Auburn, Alabama – $2,085,581 to rehabilitate a runway
- Bibb County Airport, Centreville, Alabama – $150,556 to reconstruct a taxiway
- Cullman Regional Airport-Folsom Field, Vinemont, Alabama – $774,251 to rehabilitate a runway and reconfigure an existing taxiway
- Jeremiah Denton Airport, Dauphin Island, Alabama – $588,888 to reconstruct runway lighting and airport lighting vault
- Demopolis Regional Airport, Demopolis, Alabama – $166,666 to update the airport master plan or study
- Weedon Field Airport, Eufaula, Alabama – $137,765 to acquire land for development and for obstruction removal
- Evergreen Regional Airport-Middleton Field, Evergreen, Alabama – $455,663 to construct a taxiway
- Richard Arthur Field Airport, Fayette, Alabama – $150,000 to reconstruct an apron
- Posey Field Airport, Haleyville, Alabama – $604,575 to install perimeter fencing and for obstruction removal
- Headland Municipal Airport, Headland, Alabama – $282,500 to install weather reporting equipment
- Huntsville Executive Airport-Tom Sharp Jr. Field, Meridianville, Alabama – $204,934 to acquire land for development and construct an airport-related environmental study
- Mobile Downtown Airport, Mobile, Alabama – $3,000,602 to rehabilitate an apron
- Northwest Alabama Regional Airport, Muscle Shoals, Alabama – $517,600 to conduct a study, rehabilitate a taxiway, and seal runway pavement joints
- Prattville Airport-Grouby Field, Prattville, Alabama – $1,129,018 to seal apron pavement joints, seal runway pavement joints, and seal taxiway pavement joints
- Craig Field Airport, Selma, Alabama – $335,580 to rehabilitate a taxilane
Aderholt: Cullman Electric Cooperative’s fiber projects are a great step forward
U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Alabama, on Friday said that Cullman Electric Cooperative’s phase one fiber project, “Is a great step forward for rural broadband.”
“As you may know, one of my top priorities in Congress is tackling the issue of rural broadband,” Aderholt said. “This is something that impacts so many people in our district on a daily basis, and it’s simply unacceptable. Right now, there are two different America’s, one that has access to high quality, high speed broadband, and one that does not. We have to fix this. That’s why I created the ReConnect Program years ago and pushed to include broadband funding in the COVID-19 relief bills we passed earlier this year. However, government can’t be the only solution to this problem – and luckily, here in our district we have organizations taking the matter into their own hands.”
“Cullman Electric Cooperative just introduced their phase one fiber project plan last week, and I am thrilled about the work they are doing,” Aderholt explained. “This is a great step forward for rural broadband in Alabama, and I am happy that these wonderful folks are right here in our community. One day rural America will have high quality, high speed broadband like the rest of the country, and we will be able to thank groups like Cullman EC for making it happen.”
Economic developer Dr. Nicole Jones told the Alabama Political Reporter, “High-speed internet is needed for jobs, health care, public safety, education, and quality of life. When potential large-scale employers are evaluating potential sites in the state of Alabama, almost every company inquires about access to broadband. Many rural counties do not initially have the tax base or level of population to fund the infrastructure needed for high-speed internet. As a response to the growing need for connectivity, financial assistance in the form of grants for service providers will help supply high-speed internet service to our rural areas. A team effort is essential to achieve the goal of broadband accessibility, which includes state assistance for the infrastructure administered by ADECA, federal assistance through the USDA, and private sector investments.”
“One of the most recent direct results of teamwork between the public and private sector includes Sprout Fiber Internet,” Dr. Jones explained. “Administered by Cullman Electric Cooperative, Sprout Fiber Internet will connect portions of Cullman County and Winston County with fiber at approximately 100 to 200 gig capacity. Phase One will serve some commercial areas and about 12,000 members. Residents can go to Cullman Electric Cooperative’s website (www.cullmanec.com/sprout) and input their address to verify coverage. Cullman Electric will host a series of community outreach events starting in July to discuss upcoming plans. The partnership with Cullman Electric is a tremendous achievement for the area and is only the beginning. High-speed internet will be supplied in ten phases. We look forward to seeing the benefits in our local communities.”
Aderholt is in his 12th term representing Alabama’s Fourth Congressional District.
Shelby announces $61 Million in grants for Alabama airports
U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, R-Alabama, today announced that 25 local airports across the state of Alabama will receive a total of $60,999,054 in Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grants.
The funding, some of which is made available through the Coronavirus Aid Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) of 2020, was awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for various airport improvements.
“These FAA grants will support airport infrastructure improvements to 25 Alabama airports and allow operations to continue as they work to minimize the negative effects of COVID-19,” Shelby said in a statement. “It is important that we invest in advancing our airports, particularly those in rural areas which have a significant economic impact in local communities. This $61 million in DOT funding for aviation in Alabama is great news and will contribute to the vitality of our entire state.”
The FAA grants are administered through Fiscal Year 2020 Airport Improvement Program (AIP) annual and supplemental awards. Additionally, funds provided through the CARES Act serve as the local match for the airport improvement projects.
A total of 28 grants were awarded to 25 local airports in Alabama, amounting to $60,999,054 for the following airport projects:
- Albertville Regional-Thomas J Brumlik Field, Albertville, Alabama – $380,200 to construct a taxilane
- Atmore Municipal Airport, Atmore, Alabama – $333,333 to seal a runway pavement surface and pavement joints
- Bay Minette Municipal Airport, Bay Minette, Alabama – $467,054 to construct a taxilane
- Bessemer Airport, Bessemer, Alabama – $166,904 to update the airport’s master plan or study
- Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport, Birmingham, Alabama – $2,803,000 to improve airport drainage and $7,256,000 to rehabilitate a runway and a taxiway
- Brewton Municipal Airport, Brewton, Alabama – $150,000 to improve airport drainage and erosion control
- Camden Municipal Airport, Camden, Alabama – $326,404 to rehabilitate an access road and an apron
- Chilton County Airport, Clanton, Alabama –$555,556 to extend a runway
- Pryor Field Regional Airport, Decatur, Alabama – $585,000 to seal a taxilane pavement surface and pavement joints
- Dothan Regional Airport, Dothan, Alabama – $1,415,000 to acquire or rehabilitate an emergency generator; improve, modify, and rehabilitate a terminal building; and reconstruct an apron
- H. L. (Sonny) Callahan Airport, Fairhope, Alabama – $491,111 to expand an access road and rehabilitate an apron and $120,000 to update the airport’s master plan or study
- Florala Municipal Airport, Florala, Alabama – $425,000 to construct an access road and an apron
- Foley Municipal Airport, Foley, Alabama – $361,111 to rehabilitate an apron
- Isbell Field Airport, Fort Payne, Alabama – $75,000 to rehabilitate an apron
- Northeast Alabama Regional Airport, Gadsden, Alabama – $166,667 to install a runway vertical and visual guidance system and rehabilitate airport beacons
- Guntersville Municipal-Joe Starnes Field, Guntersville, Alabama – $166,667 to construct a runway and a taxiway
- Hartselle-Morgan County Regional Airport, Hartselle, Alabama – $459,667 to install miscellaneous navigational aids and reconstruct runway and taxiway lighting
- Huntsville International Airport, Huntsville, Alabama – $1,525,000 to acquire an aircraft rescue and fire fighting vehicle and install security cameras and $23,374,511 to reconstruct runway lighting and rehabilitate a runway
- Mobile Downtown Airport, Mobile, Alabama – $8,886,910 to rehabilitate a runway
- North Pickens Airport,Reform, Alabama – $160,276 to install taxiway lighting
- Roanoke Municipal Airport, Roanoke, Alabama – $123,689 to rehabilitate an apron, a runway, and a taxiway
- Scottsboro Municipal-Word Field, Scottsboro, Alabama – $309,434 to improve airport drainage and rehabilitate a runway
- Sylacauga Municipal Airport, Sylacauga, Alabama – $100,000 to reconstruct an airport beacon
- Tuscaloosa National Airport, Tuscaloosa, Alabama – $9,444,444 to reconstruct a runway
- Franklin Field Airport, Union Springs, Alabama – $371,116 to acquire land for development and install perimeter fencing