Accountable USA - Georgia

Georgia has an aggressive subsidy strategy for economic development, using a mixture of tax credits, grants and loans.  For example, in 2006 state and local economic development officials together assembled an astounding $410 million subsidy package for a Kia Motors auto assembly plant (see below). In 2009, the state provided more than $100 million in tax credits to NCR (formerly National Cash Register), which moved its headquarters from Ohio to the Atlanta area (see below).

Three tax subsidies – the Quality Jobs Tax Credit, Mega Project Tax Credit, and the Job Tax Credit Program – each allow companies to retain personal state income tax payments of their employees. Other costly programs are Economic Development, Growth and Expansion (EDGE) and Regional Economic Business Assistance (REBA), which provide “deal closing” grants and low-cost loans (funding for REBA varies wildly from year to year). Critics such as the Georgia Budget and Policy Institute, a tax and budget watchdog group, have raised concerns over the fiscal impact of these giveaways.

In 2011, OneGeorgia Authority, which administers the EDGE program, merged with the Department of Community Affairs. The Authority’s disclosure page has not been updated since then. In 2013, the Georgia Department of Economic Development (GDEcD) started posting on its website limited information on funds committed from EDGE and REBA. Notices, however, stay online for 30 days only.

Key Subsidy Programs

Subsidy Program Recent Annual
Cost
Online Recipient
Disclosure
Recipient Disclosure
Score
Job-Creation/
Job-Quality Score**
Monitoring/
Enforcement Score***

Economic Development, Growth and Expansion (EDGE) Fund

discretionary “deal-closing” grants and loans made to urban or suburban localities on behalf of a specific relocation project when there is a competition with another state

$42.9 million (CY2012)
14/100
25/100
48/100

Film, Television and Digital Entertainment Tax Credit

transferable tax credits based on production expenditures

$86 million (FY2014)
0/100
not included
not included

Job Tax Credit

state income tax and payroll withholding credits for firms that create new jobs which meet wage and health benefit requirements (subsidies vary by geographic area)

$48 million (FY2014)
0/100
70/100
58/100

Quality Jobs Tax Credit

state income and payroll withholding credits for firms which meet job creation and wage requirements

$5 million (FY2014)
0/100
76/100
61/100

Regional Economic Business Assistance (REBA)

discretionary “deal-closing” grants and loans to rural localities on behalf of a specific company when there is a competition with another state

$2.5 million (CY2012)
5/100
not included
not included

* The score is derived from the Good Jobs First report Show Us the Subsidized Jobs (January 2014).

** The score is derived from the Good Jobs First report Money for Something (December 2011).

*** The score is derived from the Good Jobs First report Money-Back Guarantees for Taxpayers (January 2012).

Major Subsidy Deals

Kia auto assembly plant (2006)

Kia Motors, an affiliate of South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Group, chose to locate its first U.S production facility in the Georgia town of West Point, about 80 miles west of Atlanta on the border with Alabama. Gov. Sonny Perdue flew to Seoul to sign an agreement that included a subsidy package worth $410 million, the largest such deal with a foreign automaker in the United States at the time (it was later surpassed by Tennessee's deal for Volkswagen). The package, which amounted to about $160,000 for each of the projected 2,500 direct jobs at the $1.2 billion plant, included more than $200 million in state and local tax breaks as well as cheap land, equipment grants, construction of a training facility and infrastructure improvements.

Later in 2006 there were concerns that the arrest of Hyundai’s chairman in a South Korean embezzlement scandal might derail the project, but Kia moved ahead. When the company began recruiting workers for the plant, it was deluged with more than 43,000 applications. Production began in November 2009 with about 1,200 workers. In 2010 Kia transferred some production from Alabama to the West Point plant, resulting in the addition of another shift and a big increase in the workforce. In June 2011 the company said it would begin to assemble its Optima sedan in West Point. (Key sources)

NCR (2009)

The company formerly known as National Cash Register dealt a severe blow to its hometown of Dayton, Ohio when it announced plans in 2009 to move its headquarters to the Atlanta area. At the same time, it announced the relocation of a South Carolina ATM manufacturing plant to Columbus, Georgia. Together, the two facilities were expected to bring more than 2,000 jobs to the Peach State. Georgia officials, using enhanced tax credits created by the legislature, put together a subsidy package worth more than $60 million, while Columbus offered another $10 million. Estimates of the state cost later rose to some $109 million after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution obtained documents relating to grants being offered to NCR in addition to the tax credits.

The Columbus package was to be paid for in part with $5.5 million in Recovery Act funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. This plan attracted criticism from officials in Ohio and from Vice President Joe Biden because it violated federal rules barring the use of economic development funds to promote the relocation of jobs from one state to another. Despite the efforts of Gov. Sonny Perdue, the Obama Administration rejected the city’s grant application.

At the beginning of 2015, the company announced it will relocate from the suburbs to midtown Atlanta, near Georgia Tech University. Atlanta offered the company $3.2 million grant and property tax abatements.  (Key sources)

Walmart in Georgia

  • At least 8 Wal-Mart locations have received subsidies worth about $19.5 million in Georgia.
  • At least 8 Wal-Mart locations in Georgia have challenged their property tax assessment, recouping about $187,000.
  • Wal-Mart was found to have more workers than any other employer in the state relying on publicly-funded health insurance. This shows how taxpayers end up subsidizing Wal-Mart’s policy of providing low wages and inadequate benefits.
  • Wal-Mart receives about $2.5 million a year from a state policy that allows retailers to keep a portion of the sales tax they collect from customers.

For more information, see the Georgia page of Wal-Mart Subsidy Watch.