Sparks talks about his plan for AlabamaPublished 11:11pm Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Ron Sparks outlined his plans for job creation, education funding and alternative energy use during an editorial board meeting with The Outlook Wednesday afternoon.
The current state agriculture commissioner said a $1.4 million road construction ballot issue that would use $100 million a year from the Alabama Trust Fund could help put people back to work. He said adding $400 million in Garvey bonds could help get construction started immediately.
“The infrastructure in Alabama is not in very good shape,” Sparks said. “I believe infrastructure is an investment, not an expense. I believe we got to start building roads.”
Sparks said he would also work with local governments, elected officials and economic development boards to attract new jobs to the area. He added he would also appoint a small business secretary at the state level to help work with those businesses and help them expand.
“We would work with them to make sure they are not going through any unnecessary red tape to see if they can expand,” Sparks said. “We could see what kind of incentives and tax breaks would help them to expand.”
Sparks also sees second-generation alternative energies, like wood, algae and cellulose, as big job creators in the state.
“We can create jobs and become independent of foreign oil,” Sparks said.
He said he believes every vehicle in the state should be powered by alternative fuel sources.
He added that alternative fuel stations ought to be made available as well.
He said good leadership could help make that happen.
“We pump 2.5 billion gallons of gas in this state,” Sparks said. “If 10 percent of that was alternative fuels, that’s 250,00 gallons of alternative fuel. We would need five, 50 million gallon alternative energy plants around the state.”
Sparks said he plans to “fight for a lottery” to help fund statewide education. He said gambling exists in this state and the government has handled it wrong up to this point.
“What we’ve done is we’ve taken the toothpaste and squirted it out of the tube and now we’re trying to put it back,” Sparks said. “I want to see us regulate it, control it and put a gambling commission in place that has teeth in it. I want to tax them 25 to 30 percent and I want to make sure that money goes into education.”
He said a state lottery would prevent the state from losing money to gaming interests in Mississippi.
“We had four million visits to Mississippi,” Sparks said. “We’re loading buses every day to Biloxi.”
He added that a state lottery could give every child in Alabama the chance to go to college.
“As governor I will fight for a lottery for two reasons, pre-k and scholarships,” Sparks said.
He admitted to probably taking campaign money from gambling interests “because I took PAC money,” he said.
Sparks believes the implementation of the 21st Century Foundation, which he says teaches children to compete globally, would be one way to improve the state’s education system.
He stressed the importance of having the Alabama Education Association and the State Department of Education work together to go after Race to the Top money.
“I think we can comply and I think we can compete,” Sparks said.