Bedford: Special session unwise use of taxes

By Staff
Mike Self, FCT Sports Editor
Governor Bob Riley is considering calling the Legislature into special session February 26 to get approval for the state to borrow millions of dollars necessary to recruit new industry, including a giant steel manufacturer for Mobile County.
Alabama is currently in competition with Louisiana to recruit a $2.9 billion ThyssenKrupp plant. Louisiana held a special session last month in which its Legislature approved using $300 million to lure the German company.
Before leaving this past Saturday for Germany, Riley talked with some legislators about his ideas for a special session that would boost the state's bond-issuing capacity by $400 million from $350 million to $750 million.
State senator Roger Bedford said that a special session might not be the best course of action.
"I don't think it's necessary to spend the taxpayers' money on a special session when we have a regular session beginning on March 6," Bedford said. "We can make this issue a priority and discuss it the first day or two of the session. Another option would be to go in on March 6 and then call for a recess of 14 days. That would minimize the costs to taxpayers and still allow us to address the issues surrounding the recruitment of industry within the regular session."
Riley's communications director, Jeff Emerson, said Riley expects to make a decision about the special session in about a week. The special session would last only about a week and would end before the regular session starts March 6.
Emerson also said that if the governor waited for the regular session, his proposals would be competing for attention with many other issues and could take much longer to pass.
"Before we decide to borrow more money, we need to have a little more information," Bedford said. "What we don't want to have happen is for us to go in there, raise the amount from $350 million to $750 million, and then have Louisiana up their offer even higher. This needs to be a situation in which the leaders of the House and the Senate, Democrats and Republicans, all know what Louisiana is offering and then get together and decide what course of action we need to take. We want to be sure that whatever steps we take will be enough to bring this industry to Alabama."
Emerson said Alabama is also competing for nine other major industrial projects, some of which hope to break ground this summer, and the state needs to show them it is willing to make money available to lure them here.
"If we fail to take action immediately," Emmerson said, "we run the risk of losing these jobs to other states. Governor Riley hasn't spoken with anyone who is willing to take that gamble, so we're a little surprised at this suggestion from the Senate Democratic Caucus to wait until the regular session."
"This will come down to a vote of the people," Bedford said.
"We want to have time to educate our electorate and give them the details they need to make the best decision."

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