Bill protects Alabama's aviation jobs

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Feb. 25--Despite it looking less and less likely that Alabama will become the home of a huge project to build the U.S. Air Force's next generation of midair refueling aircraft, there is still a significant aircraft industry presence in the state. It is important to protect those aviation-related jobs the state already has.

Alabama has more than 70,000 people employed in the aerospace and aviation industry, making everything from defense missiles to Delta II rockets and Delta IV rocket boosters. The more than 300 aerospace industries in Alabama include Aegis Technologies, Lockheed Martin, PPG Aerospace, Teledyne Brown Engineering and the Boeing Corp.

Protecting some of the aviation jobs the state already has is the purpose of legislation being pushed in the Alabama House by Gov. Bob Riley. It is important that the Legislature approve this bill, which is sponsored by Rep. Terry Spicer, D-Elba.

House Bill 468 would change current state law to exempt commercial aircraft that enter the state for maintenance and repair from state sales and use taxes.

State development officials said the change could help Alabama protect about 2,000 aviation-related jobs.

"Other states are being competitive in trying to get these companies (currently in Alabama) to look at their states. For us to continue to be competitive, to hold these jobs and attract other jobs, we need to pass this bill," said Neal Wade, director of the Alabama Development Office, at a public hearing on the legislation.

Riley said of the bill: "We've been trying to get this bill passed for at least two years now. Delaying it does nothing but hurt Alabama's ability to protect these jobs and to create new jobs in the growing aviation field."

A spokesman for the aviation industry in Alabama said the state is one of only 10 states with such taxes on aircraft being maintained and refurbished.

This is just one of several pieces of Riley-supported, common-sense bills designed to protect or expand employment that the Legislature has balked at passing. Others would provide tax credits for hiring the unemployed and for creating jobs in the counties in Alabama with the highest unemployment.

With Alabama's unemployment rate at more than 10 percent, it is time for legislators to set aside politics and pass these bills.

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