Gov. Robert Bentley met Monday with local economic and industrial leaders in an effort to garner support for Amendment 2, a measure that will allow the state to sell bonds so it can offer incentives to new and existing companies.
Bentley is speaking about the constitutional amendment several times each week throughout the state. It’s the same strategy he used last month to promote a constitutional amendment that allowed his administration to get $437 million out of a trust fund to help balance the General Fund budget for the next three years. Voters approved that measure by a 2-to-1 margin.
On Monday, the governor meet with board members from the Greater Limestone County Chamber of Commerce, Limestone County Economic Development Association and local elected officials. Attendees were encouraged to share input about the region’s economic development, and Bentley addressed his support for the amendment, which will allow the state to sell up to $750 million in bonds to provide economic incentives to job creators.
“Amendment 2 means more well paying jobs,” Bentley told the group Monday. “The amendment will help us recruit new companies while also encouraging our existing businesses to stay in Alabama and expand.”
Bentley said the incentives created by the amendment would be necessary to keep Alabama competitive with other states in terms of job creation.
“If you don’t have the incentives companies need, they’ll go elsewhere. It’s as simple as that,” he said. “Amendment 2 keeps us in the game and gives us the tools we need to put more people back to work.”
The proposed amendment cleared the Legislature in May with only three negative votes. Since then, there has been no organized campaign against it. Since coming into office, Bentley’s used incentives for all sizes of projects, ranging from recruiting an Airbus aircraft project that will create 1,000 jobs in Mobile to saving 150 jobs in Hackleburg by getting Wrangler to rebuild a distribution center destroyed by a tornado.
Alabama has issued $720 million in bonds to pay economic incentives, leaving only $30 million that can still be sold. By comparison, Alabama offered $153 million in incentives for Airbus. The state pays off the bonds with royalties from natural gas wells in state-owned waters along the coast.
Some of the $720 million in bonds have already been paid off, but that doesn’t matter under Alabama’s Constitution. Also, the Constitution doesn’t allow for refinancing bonds to take advantage of lower interest rates.
Amendment 2 would allow for refinancing. It also would calculate how much money is left for new bonds based on how much debt is outstanding — not the total amount of bonds issued over time. For instance, Alabama has paid off about $130 million of the bonds issued so far, meaning that is roughly how much money could be available for bond projects if the amendment is approved, according to state estimates
From Dothan to Huntsville, Bentley has teased audiences with how many jobs might be created if voters approve the amendment on Nov. 6.
“We’ve got some projects I can't talk about,” Bentley told the Associated Press earlier this month. “We’ve got some major projects that will help this state that are truly significant — more significant than Airbus, and that’s pretty significant.”
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.