In recent years, local and state governments have disclosed more information to the public about tax breaks, grants, and other subsidies they give corporations. But Alabama remains an exception. Unlike most states, it still fails to meaningfully track what the public is getting for the billions it gives to businesses to open or expand operations. We talked to former state Rep. Patricia Todd about what must be done to change that.
Motherboard senior staff writer Lauren Kaori Gurley wrote about successful community efforts, led by members of the Teamsters labor union, to block Amazon's ruthless, grow-at-all costs strategy. She writes:
"This summer, communities around the United States have been declaring stunning victories in struggles to block Amazon warehouse projects in their cities and reject tax breaks that the tech giant demands from the localities and states where it opens facilities."
The world's biggest, richest companies waltz into towns across the country asking for tax breaks for new projects, but they fail to reveal their true identity until the deal is done. They demand millions in tax breaks, threatening to go elsewhere if their projects are denied. It's a bad trend and costly for residents, who lose billions of dollars in revenue that could otherwise be put back into their communities.
My colleagues were digging into the state of economic development subsides in Ohio – as we here at Good Jobs First do – when they came across Cincinnati resident Michelle Dillingham. She's part of a group working hard to reign in tax abatements that divert significant pools of money from schools.
Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, told the Orlando Sentinel the incentives were "worse than a zero-sum game. We call this interstate job fraud. At the end of the day, you've also got less revenue available for public services."
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice has tried for years to expand the state's corporate subsidy offerings, only to see lawmakers cut the funds from final spending plans. But as the influx of federal pandemic money flowed into the state, Justice saw an opportunity.
The result: a $30 million "deal-closing fund" that has no strings or rules over how the money is spent.
Transparency is a cornerstone of economic development, allowing the public to know where funds are being invested, what companies benefit from tax breaks, and if they do the good things corporate leaders and elected officials say they will. That’s why we were so cheered to see Franklin County, Ohio's new website that lifts the veil of secrecy that so often shrouds economic development subsidies.
“People aren’t persuaded by the dogma anymore that tax breaks create jobs. Too many people see that the emperor doesn’t have clothes anymore,” Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, which tracks corporate subsidies, told The Intercept. “These extractive industries have been extractive of the tax base too. People realize it’s too corrosive.”
We posted a new version of Subsidy Tracker, Good Jobs First’s database of company-specific subsidy awards from state and local governments across the country as well as federal agencies. During this round of updates, we added over 17,000 entries from 112 state and local programs from 28 states. We also updated the federal programs. We also added nine megadeals.
We spent this summer collecting data for the latest Subsidy Tracker update, which now is posted online and available to users. This update consists mostly of local data; however, we also added state data and four megadeals.