Alabama lawmakers advance industrial incentive bills

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – Alabama lawmakers on Wednesday advanced a package of economic development bills that will renew and expand tax breaks and other incentives the state uses to lure industries.

The Ways and Means Education Committee approved the package of four bills that Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, dubbed “the game plan” for industrial recruitment. Lawmakers in the state House and Senate are expected to vote on the bills Thursday.

The centerpiece of the package is a bill that reauthorizes and expands the Alabama Jobs Act, which is the state’s primary industrial incentive program. It gives tax credits for capital investments and cash rebates for job creation. The legislation authorizes the program for another five years, and incrementally increases the cap on incentives from $350 million for 2022 to $475 million for 2027.

Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said the program needs to be renewed in order to keep Alabama competitive among other states looking to land economic development projects. The program was approved in 2015 and is set to expire this year.

“This is about Alabamians and giving Alabamians real career opportunities,” he said.

Ivey’s office has said the increase is needed to keep the state competitive for large projects.

Alabama and other southern states have used large incentive packages, where state and local governments often work together to provide land, infrastructure work, worker training, tax breaks and rebates to lure industries. In 1993, Alabama used a $253 million incentive package to bring Mercedes-Benz to the state, and has since used multiple large incentive packages to entice auto manufacturers and other industries.

The legislation package also renews the Growing Alabama Act, which provides a funding source for site preparation and infrastructure needs.

“It’s important that we renew them, because we need to remain competitive as we move forward as a state,” Rep. Danny Garrett, chairman of the Ways and Means Education Committee, said.

One bill would create a program where local economic development organizations could seek financial help with site development. Another bill would provide up to $25 million on tax credits for people and organizations that make contributions to economic development organizations for investments in certain technology companies.

The fourth bill in the package would require the Alabama Department of Commerce to publish information about incentive agreements on its website.

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