Tuesday, June 05, 2007
On this day:

In Tuesday's referendum: NO on Amendment One

I'll be voting NO on Amendment One later today, even though I think it highly likely that my side will lose miserably. To say that the opposition to this amendment is poorly organized is an understatement, since there is absolutely no organized opposition to speak of. Just a few lonely voices in the wilderness.

Brian at Flash Point has posted a memo from Madison County Commissioner Mo Brooks that pretty much sums up the major arguments for a NO vote.

A lot of this just echoes what Brian and Commissioner Brooks have already said, but here's my take:

1. Basically, Amendment One is an example of corporate welfare at its worst. It would authorize an additional $400 million in borrowing authority for the state's Capital Improvement Trust Fund. A large portion of that money would then be used to provide direct subsidies to ThyssenKrupp, the German steel producer that recently announced its intentions to build a new facility near Mobile.

2. This is not about whether the state should build roads and infrastructure to support new and existing industries. I'm somewhat favorable towards those types of projects, since they address what I believe to be government's legitimate interests. The main reason I oppose this amendment is that it would provide public funding for what are essentially private activities, such as constructing facilities, training workers, etc.

3. We might as well call Amendment One the ThyssenKrupp Amendment. If the state hadn't been trying to woo that company to locate here, this amendment would never have been proposed. That just doesn't sit right with me. Here we are amending our state's fundamental law in order to provide preferential treatment for a single private corporation that has somehow managed to gain the favor of our state's leadership.

4. When government shows favoritism towards certain corporations - either through use of direct cash handouts, special tax incentives, or both, as the state proposes to do in the case of ThyssenKrupp - it places other businesses (especially those in the same industry as the "favored" business) at a competitive disadvantage. This type of government intervention is unjust, counterproductive, and unnecessary. If we currently have to pay people to come to Alabama ( which I am unconvinced that we do), then we might need to take a long, hard look at the state's business environment. Tax policies should be equitable and growth-oriented. Regulations should be balanced and reasonable. Lawsuit abuse should be minimized. The more adept we are in addressing those issues, the less we need to resort to corporate welfare.

4. Government favoritism breeds corruption. Whenever we give politicians the opportunity to pick and choose businesses or industries for special treatment, we're asking for trouble.

One of the great virtues of Alabama's constitution (yes, it does have a few) is that it makes it very difficult for the state to give handouts to private corporations. Unfortunately, year after year, Governors and legislators have sought after every way possible to bypass those constitutional barriers and all too often, voters have given their assent. Amendment One would allow the current Governor and legislature to go even further down the road - to the tune of $400 million - towards making those barriers irrelevant.

5. Not long ago, a large number of Alabama Democrats would have stood up against this kind of grandiose taxpayer-financed handout to big business. Where are those Democrats now?

On a similar note, where are the free-market conservatives in the Alabama Republican Party? The ones who say they are devoted to limited government and economic liberty? Aside from Commissioner Mo Brooks, I don't know of a single Republican elected official who has publicly opposed this amendment. In fact, this amendment's biggest proponent is none other than Governor Bob Riley, a Republican. Is the Republican Party still the party of limited government and economic liberty, or has it reverted to what its detractors have always accused it of being - merely a marriage of convenience between big government and big business?