The people's voice of reason

Governor and legislative leaders unveil package to try to lure more workers into the workforce

Alabama has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation; but it also has one of the worst workforce participation rates in the country. On Thursday Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) was joined by legislative leaders as they unveiled a new package of bills to encourage more Alabamians to enter the workforce.

"In the last session and we spent a lot of time following the governor's lead on a plan that she named the gameplan, that created some of they, maybe the best, incentives in the nation," said State Senate Pro Tem Greg Reed (R-Jasper). "If we have got the best incentives package, if we are doing things as a result of that package such as the SEEDS Act developing industrial sites; the number one question that is going to be asked by those looking to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in your state is how can you prove to me that you are going to have a workforce when I get ready to invest in your state."

"We have a low workforce participation rate we need to increase that," said Reed. "We have training opportunities across the board that need to be focused and centralized."

Reed said that the purpose of the package of legislation is, "To help people be ready to go to work to do great things for themselves and for their families.'

"Our labor force participation rate is one of the lowest in the country and that is not low in a good way," said Gov. Ivey. "In 2015 major reforms were made within the state's workforce development."

Ivey called on the Legislature to make sure that the state is able to connect Job seekers with employers.

Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth (R) said that the goal, "Is to be the workforce engine for the southeast."

"The number one limiting factor to growth is people," Ainsworth explained.

Ainsworth said that the Alabama Workforce Transformation Act will create a cabinet level work force development official to be in charge of the state's job training and workforce development efforts. That bill will be carried by State Senator Steve Livington (R-Scottsboro) and State Representative Danny Garrett (R-Trussville).

Ainsworth explained that Sen. Donnie Chesteen (R-Dothan) and Rep. Kelvin Lawrence will be carrying a bill to reform high school to direct more students into the workforce upon graduation.

"About 50% of the students in our state end up not getting a two year or four-year degree." Ainsworth said. "When you think about that, the goal of an education should be to get students ready for a job."

The legislation will create "A workforce pathways diploma" to prepare student for, "The great jobs that we have in Alabama."

Ainsworth said that the bill would create, "A $4500 grant that will help our students with dual enrollment while they are in high school."

Speaker of the House Nathaniel Ledbetter (R-Rainsville) said, "When public and private partnerships work together it works best and there is no question about it that today is a momentous occasion."

"43% of working age people are not working and do not have a job," said Ledbetter. "Some people say that they need to get off the couch and go get a job; but it is not that simple. When we have a single mother with two kids paying $30,000 for childcare that is a problem. Us as leaders of the state, we need to fix those problems."

Ledbetter proposed that the state have a childcare tax credit to help families pay for the cost of daycare.

"Over 85,000 mamas and daddies in our state don't have childcare," Ledbetter said. "They are having to choose between childcare and going and getting a job. If that is what they want to do we have to give them that job."

Ledbetter said that parts of the state have grown significantly due to their policies; but that growth has made house prices rise so the Legislature is looking at giving a housing credit.

"We are the victims of our own success," Ledbetter explained. "Alabama has grown our economy more than any other time in our history. We are a new Alabama and we have got to continue that."

"Alabama now ranks number six in the country when it comes to new business moving into our state," :ed. If we are going to continue to grow, we need brighter ideas. We couldn't do it without our public private partnerships. When we work together and there is no question about that and today proves that."

Senate Minority Leader Bobby Singleton (D-Greensboro) said, "Today I bring the tools in the toolbox for cities and counties to be able to set up what we call the Alabama innovative district act. In the past cities and counties only had abatements they could offer. Now we are going to give them to set up this innovative district where they can offer sales tax. They won't have to rely on the state and can put their own skin in the game. This can be a gamechanger."

"We are allowing this tool to be sharpened as we move across the state of Alabama," said Singleton. "It can definitely be used in the rural areas. My little county might be too small to put something together; but matched up with the county or counties next door we might be able to."

Singleton said that this legislation would allow local governments to offer tax exemptions from sales taxes as an incentive "Outside of school taxes."

"For those of you who want to come to Alabama we are open for business," Singleton concluded.

"The highlight in this package is not only for urban areas but also for rural areas," Reed said.

House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) said, "The Childcare tax credit is a very important piece of legislation that will be moving through the House and the Senate. My colleague in the Senate Garlan Gudger will be carrying the bill through the Senate."

Daniels explained that under his bill, "The employers will get a tax credit for building a childcare facility on site."

"A mother who works in any manufacturer in Alabama who qualifies for this will be able to get a $2,000 tax credit either in their check or paid directly to a childcare provider," Daniels said explaining the second part of the legislation. "We know that every dollar that we spend on early childhood education saves us seven in corrections."

The bills were introduced on Thursday. Thursday was day 17 of the 2024 Alabama regular legislative session. The Legislature is taking another vacation, so will not return until Tuesday, April 2.

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