The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

State and Nation

October 7, 2012

Governor touts Amendment 2 as job creator

— MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Fresh off getting voters to approve a $437 million constitutional amendment, Gov. Robert Bentley is crisscrossing the state to seek support for a much smaller amendment that could determine whether he keeps his campaign promise to reduce unemployment.

Bentley tells audiences that they need to approve Amendment 2 on Nov. 6 because paychecks are at stake.

"The bottom line is this will give our state a new avenue for providing economic development incentives, and that will help us create more new jobs," he said at a stop in Birmingham.

The proposed amendment cleared the Legislature in May with only three negatives vote. Since then, there has been no organized campaign against it.

It would change an earlier amendment that allows Alabama to sell up to $750 million in bonds to provide money to give as incentives for new industries to locate in the state. Bentley said he'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.

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