National Publications

Financial Exposure: Rating the States on Economic Development Transparency

by Kasia Tarczynska, Christine Wen, and Katie Furtado
Published: April, 2022

An evaluation of 250 major state-level economic development programs across all 50 states and the District of Columbia found that 154 of those programs—or 62%—disclose which companies receive public support, while 96 do not. But almost every state knows how to disclose and does so: 48 states plus the District of Columbia—or 96%—provide some degree of recipient disclosure. The gap reflects how inconsistent states are in reporting on all their major programs.

Press Release

Full Report

by Adam Warner and Philip Mattera
Published: March, 2022

An analysis of 2,000 consumer protection and safety cases brought by state public utility commissions across the country over the past two decades finds that California accounts for well over half of the $13 billion in fines and settlements, largely because of $5 billion paid by Pacific Gas & Electric for causing wildfires and other offenses.

Press Release

Full Report

States Featured:

Federal Dollars, States’ Recoveries: How Poorly Most States are Disclosing CARES ACT Spending

by Katie Furtado
Published: December, 2021

Most states are failing to provide a full and complete picture of how they have been spending billions of dollars in assistance provided by Congress to help their residents recover from the financial burdens caused by COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, just six states do it well: Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Wyoming. Eight states and the District of Columbia fail to disclose any meaningful information online.

These are among the findings from a Good Jobs First review of the online disclosure practices of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as they have spent a combined $111.8 billion from the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF).

Press Release

Full Report

Update (1/4/2022): After this report was published, officials at the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC) brought to our attention that the Coronavirus Relief Fund spending data posted at on pandemicoversight.gov is cumulative, despite the columns being labeled for only the latest quarter. We had reached out to PRAC while writing the report to fact-check our findings, which included our observation that only the most recent quarter’s data was publicly showing, but PRAC did not respond.

Revealing the True Costs of Tax Incentives: Eight Critical Improvements Needed for GASB Statement No. 77

by Christine Wen and Greg LeRoy
Published: October, 2021

Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) Statement No. 77 on Tax Abatement Disclosures, a 2015 amendment to public-sector Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), requires GAAP-compliant U.S. state and local governments to report revenue lost to economic development tax abatements. Four years into the rule’s widespread adoption, compliance is uneven, and the resulting data is too often missing or misleadingly reported. In this white paper, we recommend eight actions by the GASB to improve compliance and generate more robust abatement disclosures from governments.

Update (11/1/2021): A passage is added on page 15 to include a suggestion for transition to machine-readable financial reporting. 

Press Release

Full Report

 

States Featured:

Abating Our Future: How Students Pay for Corporate Tax Breaks

by Christine Wen, Katie Furtado and Greg LeRoy
Published: March, 2021

Economic development tax abatements given to corporations cost public school districts $2.37 billion in foregone revenue in fiscal year 2019. That’s an increase of 13 percent – a $273 million jump – from just two years earlier and came during the pre-pandemic period of economic prosperity, a new report details.

The losses were widespread: 97 school districts lost more than $5 million each, and 149 districts lost more than $1,000 per student. That left less money for students, who suffered poorer schools, and caused working families to pay higher local and state taxes.

Press Release

Full Report

The Other Environmental Regulators: How States Unevenly Enforce Pollution Laws

by Philip Mattera and Anthony Kay Baggaley
Published: March, 2021

The latest expansion of Violation Tracker consists of more than 50,000 environmental enforcement actions brought by state regulators over the past 20 years. This report analyzes the data and finds striking differences among the states in their degree of regulatory zeal. It also reveals which companies and industries have paid the most in state environmental penalties.

Press Release

Full Report

 

States Featured:

Covering Amazon on Deadline

by Arlene Martinez and Pat Garofalo
Published: January, 2021

The arrival of Amazon coming to town often excites elected officials and Chambers of Commerce representatives, who gush over how it will lift up workers and boost the regional economy. But beyond the breathless press releases and equally excitable media write-ups, there’s a bigger story to tell about the full impact Amazon has on a community.

Here are 5 things to consider when Amazon comes to town.

Press Release

Reporter's Guide to Covering Amazon

 

States Featured:

WORKPLACE WARNINGS: The Need for a New and Improved Paycheck Protection Program

by Mellissa Chang
Published: December, 2020

More than 190,000 American workers have been laid off since March across 1,900 companies that received loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The companies intended to support 251,000 workers – instead, they laid off 76 percent of them. About one in eight of those workers lost their jobs permanently.

Press Release

Full Report

States Featured:
by Philip Mattera and Mellissa Chang
Published: September, 2020

More than 43,000 businesses and non-profit organizations that received CARES Act funds have a history of misconduct, collectively paying $13 billion to settle civil and criminal penalties over the last decade.

Together, the same companies received $57 billion in grants and $91 billion in loans through the federal economic stimulus bill passed by Congress to mitigate the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Press Release

Full Report

States Featured:
by Greg LeRoy
Published: February, 2019

Many Americans are rightly aghast at the “economic war among the states” as exposed by Amazon’s HQ2 auction. Now, they are also emboldened to challenge this corrosive war by the enormous community organizing victory in New York City that caused Amazon to cancel one new headquarters in Queens. Good Jobs First proposes five ways to rein in the problem of governments over-spending for economic development deals—so they can better focus on strategies that work.  

Full text.

States Featured:

Cities need to stop selling out to big tech companies. There's a better way.

by Greg LeRoy and Maryann Feldman
Published: July, 2018

Every mayor and governor wants to attract hi-tech jobs. But too few elected officials have taken the time to learn how hi-tech companies start up, how they thrive, and how government can best assist them – without overspending on a few big deals. Using “old economy” incentives for “new economy” firms can be costly and counterproductive.

States Featured:

HQ2 Employees Might Unwittingly Pay Their Taxes to Amazon

by Greg LeRoy
Published: June, 2018

There’s a very real chance that when Amazon.com, Inc. starts hiring employees for its second headquarters, or HQ2, those employees’ state personal income taxes won’t all go to the state treasury. Billions of dollars in taxes may instead be diverted to the company, of which CEO Jeff Bezos owns 17 percent.

Link to full story at CityLab.com

States Featured:
by Greg LeRoy
Published: July, 2017

Greg LeRoy discusses how Amazon has gained market share through the receipt of tax incentives. He argues that state and local governments shouldn’t be paying Amazon to undermine other retailers.
 

States Featured:

Disclosing the Costs of Corporate Welfare

by Greg LeRoy in The American Prospect
Published: January, 2017

For decades, politicians of both parties have touted the glories of massive tax-break deals. Whether it’s a governor announcing an auto assembly plant or a mayor breaking ground for a new mall, they invariably take credit for the jobs and claim that tax breaks did the trick.

But the costs of such deals and the programs that bankroll them have seldom been fully disclosed. The details are usually buried in different state, county, and city agencies. And of course, the costs are suffered by taxpayers over decades, long after the politicians win their re-election.

Read the full article on The American Prospect website.

 

 

States Featured:
by Greg LeRoy
Published: December, 2016

Donald Trump’s controversial deal with Carrier Corp. has ushered in a long-overdue debate over corporate giveaways that come at taxpayers’ expense.

States Featured:
by Thomas Cafcas & Greg LeRoy
Published: September, 2016

Using data from dozens of programs and deals in Good Jobs First’s Subsidy Tracker database, we draw sharp comparisons between the costs of workforce development programs versus company-specific “megadeals.” Whereas 31 out of 33 training programs have four-figure costs per job, our current megadeals database shows an average cost to taxpayers of more than $658,000 per job.

Press Release

Full Report

Tax Fairness: An Answer to State Budget Problems

by Steve Herzenberg and Greg LeRoy
Published: February, 2015

This report from Keystone Research Center and Good Jobs First shows that states could generate up to $128 billion in revenue to meet state needs by fixing inequities in state tax codes. The study shows that surging inequality has skewed huge amounts of income to the one percent, who pay far lower tax rates than the middle class, squeezing state budgets unnecessarily.

full report (revised Feb. 18, 2015)

States Featured:
by Philip Mattera
Published: February, 2014

As a result of substantial enhancements we have made to our Subsidy Tracker database, it is possible for the first time to estimate the share of total state and local economic development awards going to the largest corporations.This report summarizes the findings.

full report

press release

Subsidy Tracker 2.0 database

Top 100 Parents

States Featured:

Show Us the Subsidized Jobs: An Evaluation of State Government Online Disclosure of Economic Development Subsidy Awards and Outcomes

by Philip Mattera, Thomas Cafcas, Leigh McIlvaine, Kasia Tarczynska, Elizabeth Bird and Greg LeRoy
Published: January, 2014

More states than ever are disclosing company-specific information on economic development subsidies, but the quality of the transparency is highly uneven.

Press release
Full report
Executive summary
Table of links to state disclosure websites
State appendices with scoring details

Megadeals: The Largest Economic Development Subsidy Packages Ever Awarded By State and Local Governments in the United States

by Philip Mattera and Kasia Tarczynska with Greg LeRoy
Published: June, 2013

In a painstaking review using hundreds of sources, Good Jobs First identifies 240 “megadeals,” or subsidy awards with a total state and local cost of $75 million or more each. The cumulative cost of these deals is more than $64 billion. The megadeals list is a new enhancement of Good Jobs First’s Subsidy Tracker database, the first online compilation of company-specific data on economic development deals from around the country.

Full report

Press release

full list of megadeals (with details) in spreadsheet form

Note: This list  contains new deals that have come to light since the report was published.

States Featured:

Show Us the Local Subsidies: Cities and Counties Disclosing Economic Development Subsidies

by Leigh McIlvaine and Philip Mattera with Greg LeRoy
Published: May, 2013
Two-thirds of the economic development subsidy programs run by the nation’s largest cities and counties do not use the web to report which companies are receiving the tax breaks and other forms of financial assistance. Among the third of programs that do practice online transparency, most do so poorly, failing to disclose the dollar value of the subsidies. An even smaller number reveal key outcomes such as how many jobs were created. On the other hand, a few localities such as Memphis/Shelby County, Tennessee; New York City; Austin, Texas; and Chicago do a good job at disclosure.

full report

press release

States Featured:
by Peter Fisher, with a preface by Greg LeRoy
Published: May, 2013

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.

by Philip Mattera, Thomas Cafcas, Leigh McIlvaine, Andrew Seifter and Kasia Tarczynska
Published: January, 2012

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.

by Philip Mattera, Thomas Cafcas, Leigh McIlvaine, Andrew Seifter and Kasia Tarczynska
Published: December, 2011

This follow-up to our Show Us the Subsidies report evaluates state subsidy programs on their job-creation and other performance requirements as well as their job quality (wage and benefit) standards. Press Release. Full Report. Executive Summary. Appendices.

by Philip Mattera
Published: February, 2011

This synopsis of our previous reports on Walmart and research by others finds that the giant retailer is avoiding a total of about $400 million a year in state and local taxes.

States Featured:
by Philip Mattera, Thomas Cafcas, Leigh McIlvaine, Caitlin Lacy, Elizabeth Williams and Sarah Gutschow
Published: December, 2010

Good Jobs First examines the subsidy disclosure practices of the 50 states (and D.C.). See which states do a good job of reporting on where the money is going and which keep taxpayers in the dark.

Note:  Good Jobs First issued an updated version of this report in January 2014.  See Show Us the Subsidized Jobs for updated disclosure information.

Report Overview (press release, appendices, executive summary)

States Featured:
by Philip Mattera, Leigh McIlvaine, Caitlin Lacy & Thomas Cafcas
Published: January, 2010

Good Jobs First re-evaluates the quality of disclosure on the websites set up by state governments to educate the public about the flow of funds from the federal stimulus act. We find that states such as Kentucky, Illinois and Minnesota have made dramatic improvements in their sites over the past six months.  Report Overview (press release, state appendices, rankings summary).

States Featured:
by Philip Mattera, Leigh McIlvaine, Caitlin Lacy, Michelle Lee and Thomas Cafcas
Published: July, 2009

An examination of the quality of disclosure on the official websites set up by state governments to educate the public about the flow of funds from the federal stimulus program.  Report Overview (press release, state appendices).

States Featured:
by Philip Mattera, Karla Walter, Julie Farb Blain and Michelle Lee
Published: November, 2007

The Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First evaluates the quantity and quality of state government Web-based disclosure on economic development subsidies, procurement contracts and state lobbying activities. The study finds signs of improvement but concludes that states have a long way to go to fulfill the potential of the Internet in enhancing the public's right to know. Press release.

States Featured:
by Philip Mattera, Karla Walter, Julie Farb Blain and Colleen Ruddick
Published: October, 2007

This first-ever investigation of Wal-Mart's local property tax records finds that the retail giant systematically seeks to minimize its payment of taxes that support public schools and other vital local government services. Online appendices with lists of stores and distribution centers examined.

States Featured:
by Sarah Grady
Published: March, 2006

Transit-oriented development (TOD) is growing in popularity, due in part to its environmental benefits and innovative design. This report emphasizes another benefit, looking at the ways TOD can serve the needs of working families - particularly those with low and moderate income - by providing affordable housing and/or better access to jobs. Good Jobs First examines 25 TOD projects around the country and finds that projects with community benefits agreements, projects initiated by community development corporations (CDCs), and projects with exceptional private developers who intentionally sought to link people to job opportunities were more likely to address the needs of working families than most TOD projects.

States Featured:
by Philip Mattera
Published: July, 2004

This report by the Corporate Research Project of Good Jobs First spotlights the growing degree to which state governments are awarding contracts to offshore outsourcing firms. It was produced for the Washington Alliance of Technology Workers (WashTech), a local union of the Communications Workers of America that supports workers in the information technology sector. The report found that 18 offshore outsourcing firms--including several billion-dollar companies from India--are aggressively seeking state government contract work, primarily in information technology, in at least 30 states. The 18 firms have already captured at least $75 million in offshore state contracts and are seeking more, in part by hiring former government officials and by making state electoral campaign contributions. The study also looks at the large number of state food-stamp call centers that are operated offshore.

States Featured:
by Anna Purinton
Published: November, 2003

A national survey finds that the number of economic development subsidies with job quality standards is continuing to rise sharply, and that standards are becoming an everyday tool for effectively targeting development subsidies to businesses that create high-quality jobs.

States Featured:
by Mafruza Khan
Published: September, 2003

A 50-state survey of economic development subsidy programs--such as loans, grants, and tax incentives -- reveals that not one single state effectively coordinates its economic development spending with public transportation planning.

States Featured: