Putting State Pension Costs in Context: How They Compare to the Cost of Corporate Subsidies, Tax Breaks and Loopholes
Good Jobs First
Updated June 2018
Public pensions are under assault throughout the United States. Led to believe that retirement costs for government workers are out of control, governors and legislators in numerous states have been moving to cut benefits and tighten eligibility requirements.
In a series of short papers, Good Jobs First seeks to put current pension costs (known as employer normal costs) into comparative context. Focusing on 13 states where pensions have been debated, we compare those costs to the amount of revenue those states lose each year as the result of economic development subsidies offered to corporations as well as the tax preferences and accounting loopholes (including offshore tax havens) used by companies.
As a matter of honest accounting and fair budgeting, state leaders should examine all forms of spending before they single out pensions or any other expense. Corporate tax breaks and loopholes are often poorly understood and little-noticed because they do not get debated and annually or bi-annually reauthorized the way appropriations do, nor do they often get sunsetted or audited. But over time, they add up to hundreds of millions, or even billions, of dollars per year.
States and localities have given retail juggernaut Amazon almost a quarter-billion dollars in economic development subsidies in the past two years for warehouses the company must build to fulfill the rapid-delivery service tied to its Amazon Prime business model.
BP and Its Brethren: Identifying the Largest Violators of Environmental, Health and Safety Laws in the United States
Shortchanging Small Business: How Big Businesses Dominate State Economic Development Incentives
In Search of A Level Playing Field: What Leaders of Small Business Organizations Think About Economic Development Incentives
A national survey of leaders of small business organizations reveals that they overwhelmingly believe that state economic development incentives favor big businesses, that states are overspending on large individual deals, and that state incentive programs are not effectively meeting the needs of small businesses seeking to grow.
Show Us the Subsidized Jobs: An Evaluation of State Government Online Disclosure of Economic Development Subsidy Awards and Outcomes
Prominent studies that purport to measure and rank the states’ “business climates” are actually politicized grab-bags of data. They contradict each other wildly, have no predictive value, and should not be used to inform public policies. This is only the third such analysis of pseudo-social science “business climatology” in 27 years.
The Job-Creation Shell Game: Ending the Wasteful Practice of Subsidizing Companies that Move Jobs from One State to Another
This study describes how state and local governments waste billions of dollars each year on economic development subsidies given to companies for moving existing jobs from one state to another rather. It also looks at how the existence of relocation subsidies emboldens some large companies to demand large job blackmail subsidies to stay put. The report offers policy recommendations to address the problem.
In this article for the American Planning Association’s Planning magazine, Greg LeRoy joins other economic development experts in providing advice to the new Administration.
Paying Taxes to the Boss: How a Growing Number of States Subsidize Companies with the Withholding Taxes of Workers
States are increasingly using the withholding taxes of their workers to subsidize companies. This is justified in the name of job creation, but payments often go to firms that simply move existing jobs from one state to another, or to ones that threaten to move unless they get paid to stay put.
Full text of report
Appendix: subsidy program descriptions
Spreadsheet list of companies receiving subsidies linked to personal income tax revenue
This companion report to our Money for Something and Show Us the Subsidies studies evaulates state subsidy programs on their use of clawbacks and other penalties in enforcing job-creation, job quality and other performance standards.Press release. Executive summary. Full report with appendices. Full report without appendices. Appendices.
This study, prepared at the request of the Communications Workers of America, finds that 16 T-Mobile call centers in 11 states have received a total of $61 million in subsidies.
Chicago and Washington -- Local governments can write more effective contracts to improve the odds that companies receiving economic development incentives keep their promises to create good jobs and other community benefits - or pay taxpayers back.
In this extensively researched study, we show that the giant retailer has received more than $1 billion in economic development subsidies from state and local governments across the country. Taxpayers have helped finance not only Wal-Mart stores, but also the company's huge network of distribution centers, more than 90 percent of which have gotten subsidies. The report also includes policy proposals, including a prohibition on subsidies to big-box retailers except in distressed areas that are underserved by retail outlets (and in those cases the recipient of the subsidy should be required to pay a living wage).
Note: Updated information on this subject can be found on our Wal-Mart Subsidy Watch website.
This report examines legislative changes to two geographically targeted economic development programs: tax increment financing (TIF) and enterprise zones. It asks the question: Have laws governing these programs been weakened to permit the use of these programs in non-blighted or affluent areas? In virtually every state that has weakened its TIF or enterprise zone program, the answer is "Yes."
A comprehensive summary and database of 122 state performance audits of economic development programs of the last decade.