This state needs fiscal stability. Bentley, as Alabamians well know, has been quick to belabor that point.
In that sense, it’s fine that the governor and the state’s GOP-led Legislature are stressing the value of Bentley’s tax-break plan for businesses that hire new employees. At its core, it is an attempt to create jobs — not cut them, the broken-record message coming from the state Capitol this spring. Then-state Rep. Bentley of Tuscaloosa sponsored similar legislation that became law last year.
The plan encapsulated in the House and Senate bills isn’t calculus-hard to grasp. A business would receive a $1,000 income-tax credit for each newly hired employee who completes 12 straight months on the job. Businesses that employ 50 or fewer workers would be eligible. The jobs would have to pay at least $10 an hour.
The plan isn’t perfect, but it has merit.
Yes, it’s admirable that Bentley is couching this as yet another way to spur growth of small businesses in Alabama, where unemployment remains more than 9 percent. Small businesses are vital to the state’s economy — and they need help, just like government agencies and large industries.
But it’s hard to imagine these supposedly job-creating tax credits becoming the magic potion that rejuvenates Alabama’s economy and lowers joblessness to the point that Bentley can begin taking his gubernatorial salary. The wish should be that when the governor touts landmark job-creating legislation, he sets his sights a little higher.
In essence, Alabama needs what Calhoun County needs — less reliance on service-industry jobs that pay meager wages and shirk benefits, and more middle- and high-income jobs that families can depend on. Small business growth is part of the solution, worthwhile and needed, but isn’t the only solution.
This is where Bentley’s small-government, cut-cut-cut mantra rubs against the idea that investing in Alabama now is vital to Alabama’s future. There is no doubt substantive changes have to be made in Montgomery to address the state’s budget deficits. Some reductions are necessary.
But putting resources into efforts that will pay long-term dividends are just as important as cutting costs today. Investing in workforce training will increase the state’s appeal to out-of-state industries. Investing in education will allow low-income Alabamians to escape poverty and be productive citizens. Investing in concepts like tax reform will equal the playing field for all Alabamians.
Improving a state takes many steps; there is no single
answer. Taking those steps now — big steps, brave steps — that pay off in future generations must be a component of any solution.