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September 20, 2014

Editorial: Bentley on stage

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Posted: Thursday, July 10, 2014 11:55 pm

Today in Nashville, the governor of the state with a dubious record of job-creation and unemployment will tell the nation’s other governors about strategic economic development.

It’s your stage, Gov. Robert Bentley. Tell others how it’s done.

This afternoon in an upscale Music City hotel, Alabama’s governor will appear at the summer meeting of the National Governors Association, of which he chairs its Economic Development and Commerce Committee. Bentley is scheduled to lecture fellow governors on Alabama’s attempts to reward innovation that creates jobs.

Sounds promising.

Problem is, Alabama’s record of job-creation and unemployment reduction under the Tuscaloosa Republican is iffy, at best. Bentley’s campaign promise four years ago that he wouldn’t take a state salary until Alabama’s unemployment dropped to 5.2 percent remains a promise that’s in play.

Unemployment in Alabama was 6.9 percent in April.

That’s worse than it was in March (6.7 percent) and worse than it was the previous April (6.5 percent). Thus, the governor who will speak today at the NGA meeting heads the state that had the only rise in unemployment in the previous 12 months, according to Labor Department data released this spring.

(To avoid further frowns, we won’t say much about unemployment in Calhoun County, which has tracked above the state’s dismal average for some time.)

The governor’s office is fond of offering itself pats on the back whenever economic statistics are in the positive. That’s good PR. This spring, Bentley’s spokespeople said nearly 17,000 new jobs were created by new and expanding Alabama businesses in 2013. Capital investments for those jobs were more than $4.4 billion, they said.

But what Bentley’s cheerleaders conveniently omit are concerns about the state’s still-dismal unemployment rate and the Black Belt and rural counties with even higher unemployment figures.

Certain statistics can’t be spun.

If Bentley was a whiz at job-creation, his speech today wouldn’t center on job creation as seen through the myopic eyes of a cut-slash-and-reduce Republican. That’s too simplistic. Instead, it would center on the drastic improvement of public education — the real needle-mover when it comes to recruiting job-creators.

Alas, that’s not Bentley’s specialty.

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