I know this to be an absolute fact, because as a former member of the Alabama Legislature, I was the chief sponsor of the legislation that created the Alabama Trust Fund and campaigned vigorously for the passage of the legislation.
As the chief sponsor of the legislation that created the Alabama Trust Fund and the bond issue for infrastructure, no one is more familiar with the history and the intent of the legislation, the trust fund and this constitutional amendment than I am.
The purpose of the original legislation in 1982 was to create a permanent trust fund for the revenues from sales of offshore drilling rights and royalties. That same year, another accompanying legislative act was passed authorizing a $520 million bond issue for infrastructure projects to create and stimulate economic development in Alabama. Thus began the history and precedent of utilizing the trust fund’s revenues for infrastructure needs and economic development.
Those involved in the passage of this legislation did not want the Legislature to be able to use the corpus of the trust fund without a statewide vote of the people. If the corpus was to be utilized, the residents of Alabama would have that power. On Tuesday, the people will again be given that power.
This constitutional amendment will have a direct impact on the safety and health of Alabama families, as well as the future of economic development in this state. If passed, this referendum will keep tens of thousands of hard-working Alabamians on the job. It helps local doctors stay in their communities, it ensures that local hospitals remain open and guarantees that our prisons are properly staffed so that inmates will stay behind bars instead of being released into our communities.
If the amendment does not pass, every state agency will be forced to cut services and our health-care system could be altered forever. Health care is a critical component of Alabama’s economy. The health-care system in Alabama employs 81,491 people (full-time and part-time) and indirectly creates another 79,518 jobs. Hospitals generate an economic impact of nearly $19 billion for Alabama at a time when we are in desperate need of financial recovery. If this amendment does not pass, the entire economy of this state will suffer and Alabama’s future of economic development will be hindered. In addition, Alabama could lose thousands of jobs.
Today, I represent Manufacture Alabama, an organization that represents hundreds of companies in a wide range of industries that share common goals and face common competitive challenges. Manufacturers recognize that we all benefit from a strong statewide economy. That’s why we focus every day on doing the right things that will get our people back to work and Alabama’s working families back on their feet. Manufacture Alabama believes that passing the constitutional amendment is the right thing to do for Alabama.
Critics of the amendment continue to say their primary concern is that the money will not be paid back. This argument simply does not hold water because the governor and the legislative leadership have committed to repay the funds.
On Tuesday, voters will be asked to make a very important decision — a decision that Manufacture Alabama and I have already made. We proudly join the many other groups from across the state that support the passage of this amendment. It is the right thing to do for Alabama. That’s why as the chief sponsor of the legislation that created the Alabama Trust Fund, I will be voting yes on Tuesday.
George Clark is president of Manufacture Alabama in Montgomery.