One of the bright spots for Gov. Kay Ivey’s first elected term has been her ability to lead state government to make Alabama a business-friendly state.
Ivey has done it to the extent that she has landed big- and medium-sized corporations with either a newly established or expanded presence in the state.
The goal is to maximize employment opportunities. At some point over the next year and a half, you will likely hear a campaign commercial or two produced on behalf of Ivey’s reelection campaign that will be touting those successes.
Does that focus change or should Ivey continue to be the “job” governor?
It is hard to be against economic development. Lately, economic development has been an entrée into almost every significant policy proposal.
“We need to abolish state school board elections.”
“Our public schools are terrible and something needs to be done. Without good schools, we can’t have economic development.”
“We need to expand the Port of Mobile, too.”
“Really? Who among the population is clamoring for that?”
“Well, not many. But we need to do it for economic development and it will benefit everyone in the state from Florence to Dothan and Scottsboro to Mobile.”
No one has been able to justify why the Port of Mobile was the highest priority for Alabama, as determined by self-appointed state breadwinner Sen. Richard Shelby and the Ivey administration.
Were residents in Alabama like, “That’s OK! We’ll sit in traffic on Interstates 10, 65 and 20/59! When you get done dredging the Mobile Bay, then you can put in some time expanding those clogged thoroughfares! We are so excited about economic development, Dear Leaders.”
Those are just a couple of bewildering examples. People were told they do not know what is good for them. But have no fear. We will figure it out for you because state government is complicated and confusing. Roll Tide and War Eagle!
With the incentives, tax abatements, rail spurs and highway improvements all done in the name of bringing these mega-manufacturing facilities to the state, what about those of us who are already here?
One business owner joked he would be better served to move his operations to Georgia for a year and then returned to take advantage of the enticements offered to lure business to Alabama.
Alabama has had a bad run over the last 30 years at the top of state government. From the end of the George Wallace era to Guy Hunt, Don Siegelman and Robert Bentley, the bar for an Alabama governor to be considered successful is relatively low.
Just don’t embarrass the state.
However, if you polled Alabamians about what they think the integral roles of state government are, you probably have to go down the list a bit to reach economic development.
Education, infrastructure and health care are a few that might top that list, and Alabama does not rate particularly well in those categories when pitted against the other states in the union.
Ivey addressed infrastructure very early in 2019 with almost textbook-like precision by shepherding the Rebuild Alabama Act through the Legislature and showing that was how you could get things done in Montgomery.
Right out the gate, sometimes with tactics one might not think were becoming of a sitting governor, Ivey forced the hand of many in the Legislature to support a fuel tax increase and, for some, it was the first significant vote they cast as members of the body.
That was more than two years ago. While several road and bridge projects have been announced, have things improved overall or gotten worse?
Is the state better now than when the Rebuild Alabama Act passed two-and-a-half years ago?
That could be on the minds of Republican voters next year if Ivey draws an opponent.
More and higher-paying job opportunities are good, but what if you cannot get to them?
Not that Ivey needs any advice — she is still very solid according to polling and near the top of the list among GOP governors across the country. Still, if the right candidate came along, one with a built-in name ID and the resources to work with, she could be vulnerable.
It is not that the Ivey administration needs a wholesale course correction, but perhaps a course adjustment.
Most people who want a job in Alabama can get a job. Some additional hurdles need to be dealt with — childcare, transportation to and from work and an ability to pass a drug test. Those are ancillary to what seems to have been the primary focus — economic development, no matter the cost.
Those who have jobs, pay taxes, are good citizens and contribute to society in positive ways — how are you going to improve their quality of life?
Why does the answer to that question seem to play second fiddle a lot lately?
Suppose you’re curious why so-called outsider candidates like Donald Trump, Tommy Tuberville and Mo Brooks do so well. In those cases, it might have something to do with the political establishment; in this case, that establishment is represented by Ivey and her administration’s perceived lack of attention to those questions.
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