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FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2007
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EDITORIAL

State must be ready when industry calls

As early as today, Gov. Bob Riley may call legislators into special session to raise the state's borrowing limit, in part to give him leverage in recruiting industry.

Having incentive money in the bank rather than having to scramble for the funds would be a great financial incentive and, perhaps, give the state the edge over competitors.

The governor says up to 6,000 jobs are possible and the state needs to be prepared with its packages. While no one is talking about it, one major prospect could be interested in Limestone County.

The Riley administration is also talking about an industry's interest in Northwest Alabama and Mississippi, one looking at Central Alabama and Georgia and the German steel company, ThyssenKrup, that is interested in bringing 1,000 jobs to the Mobile area.

The proposal is to raise the debt limit from $350 million to $750 million to take care of incentives and to establish a retiree health costs trust fund.

Borrowing money means, of course, that you eventually have to repay the loan. In this case, the money for industrial recruitment is an investment, which should liquidate the debt over time. But more immediate repayment, Finance Director Jim Main says, could come from an increase in oil and gas revenues.

Increasing the debt ceiling requires a voter referendum. Thus, it makes sense for the Legislature to meet this month before the regular session in March and have the referendum as soon as the law allows. In this case the minimum is 90 days after the session ends.

Morgan County officials know the struggle of putting together an incentive package when money isn't readily available.

It is time to change that practice statewide.

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