Latest Bentley comments disappointing, intent concerning

By Dr. Henry C. Mabry, AEA Executive Secretary

Gov. Robert Bentley continues to say he wants to work with public education and is for teachers and education support personnel.

He said this as he cut our educators pay. He said this when he supported charter schools. He said this when he tried to raid the Education Trust Fund (ETF), and he said this when he twice signed the Accountability Act. Just because someone says something over and over again just does not make it so.

Just in the last fortnight, Bentley has talked about the need for hundreds of millions more for industrial incentives, the financial plight of the State General Fund, and how prisons need money. All of this is about getting money from public schools, yet he wants to work with us. Is it the thickness of my skull, or does this lip service about “wanting to work with us” make any sense in light of the Governor’s actions and his publicly spoken stream of consciousness?

Public education should “eat what it kills,” so says the all-knowing Bentley week before last. He did not make such asinine comments when he was hat in hand begging for the support of educators four years ago, so why does he say what he says and why does he do what he does? We do not know, but all we do know is that Gov. Bentley has not done one thing in four years for public education and he has done plenty against it. Gov. Bentley’s treatment of public education and educators has been abysmal as of late, and anyone in public education knows this to be a fact.

The Governor says one thing to one group and then hours later he supposedly takes it all back and says it was a mistake or a “trial balloon.”

It’s not just with us. The Governor speaks duplicitously with the voters regarding his favorite topic: job creation.

The Governor continues to say Alabama’s economy is in good shape, but the facts just get in the way of a good story line.

He said in an interview that more Alabamians are working than when he took office, but according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics there are 11,250 fewer employed Alabamians than in January 2011 when Bentley became “The Great One.”

Bentley claimed that employment had increased every month he’s been in office. In fact, there have been 13 months when jobs declined from the month before.

Alabama is the only state in the country with a year-to-year increase in unemployment.

Bentley campaigned for governor on a promise to make Alabama’s job market healthy again. Sorry, Governor, but Alabama has missed the mark.

Other southern states, such as Georgia, Tennessee, Texas, and even Mississippi can claim they have recovered from the recession. Sadly, Alabama cannot.

Alabama is number one in the increase of the unemployed and cutting public school funding. In his desperate attempt to show he is serious about creating jobs, he once again showed how he wanted to raid public education to shore up his recruitment game by throwing hundreds of millions of school dollars at the corporate trough.

On July 23, Bentley told a workforce development summit in Washington County that he planned to call a special session of the Legislature after the November elections to shift money from the state’s education fund to the General Fund to pay for corporate incentives.

Bentley said the state is running short on money to lure manufacturers and other larger employers. The Governor said that money traditionally has come from the General Fund, which pays for Medicaid, prisons, state troopers, and other non-education functions of government.

Bentley also said the additional tax benefits that new businesses bring to Alabama mostly flow to the Education Trust Fund.

Bentley said, “If education is benefiting from it, we need to look and see if some of the incentive money should come from that way. . . . Whoever benefits ought to pay.”

What the governor obviously fails to understand is that incentives already come from education funding in the form of tax breaks, training costs, and hard dollars going to business from the Education Trust Fund. I know because I quarterbacked the deals for the last governor who created jobs, and I’m not talking about Bob Riley.

In 2012, the Republican super majority failed in an effort to pass a bill that would have given companies of the state income taxes withheld from the pay of employees. This would have been whether one new job was created or not.

Supporters argued the tax incentive was needed to recruit new companies to Alabama and encourage existing companies to expand.

That bill, had it passed, would have allowed new business and industry to collect income tax from their employees and keep it. Under state law today, those taxes are remitted to the state strictly for public education.

Don’t be surprised to see Gov. Bentley and anti–public education Republicans try this tactic again.

Incentives are fine if done correctly as the state did with Mercedes under Gov. Jim Folsom Jr. and under the expansion of the automotive industry under Gov. Don Siegelman. Incentives go bad if too many dollars are given and the state will not recoup investment in a reasonable period of time.

A recent Pew Research Center report shows that Alabama does not properly evaluate the effectiveness of tax incentives and other “job creation” giveaways. It is bad if the state blindly throws money at corporations and this is exactly what will happen if corporations get their hands on worker’s income taxes.

Alabama put up a half billion to three quarters of a billion dollars for the Airbus plant in Mobile. That is $500,000 to $700,000 per direct job.

Alabama gave a Chinese company $190 million in incentives for the $100 million Golden Dragon copper manufacturing plant in Wilcox County. Alabama gave billions to ThyssenKrupp just over five years ago now to see that company leave with our money.

Bentley wants $150 million a year to go after large economic development projects. In clarifying, Bentley said the money should come from a budget stabilization fund and not the Education Trust Fund. Unfortunately, this is more doublespeak. The budget stabilization fund comes from the Education Trust Fund, so once again such incentives would be paid by public education if Bentley ultimately has his way.

The Governor also said recently that any corporate incentive plan would have to be a “net gain” for the Education Trust Fund. If the “net gain” comes similarly to the ThyssenKrupp and Golden Dragon projects and bilks worker income tax to dole out as more corporate welfare then we say no thank you.

Bentley and the Legislature need to fund schools before more industrial incentives. Alabama schools have been on the financial back-burner since Bentley and the anti-public education Republican super majority leadership took over. Instead of continuing the legacy of being the state with the most severe school funding cuts, Alabama and its leaders need to improve school funding rather than looking for ways to spend it on non-education luxuries like more corporate welfare.

Eat what we kill, Governor? You have a very short memory.


Date: 08/11/14
Category: Political

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