A message from our executive director… Our New York study showing how corporate tax breaks take money from kids rankles residents… And let’s make government reports machine readable!
It’s Arlene Martínez, with a post-Valentine’s Day love note going out to everyone except site selection consultants who pit states against each other, using idle threats and phony baloney “economic impact” claims.
Let’s jump in.
A Note from Good Jobs First Executive Director Greg LeRoy
As we approach our 25th anniversary in July 2023, Good Jobs First is strong and growing — with more users of our data, more supporters and subscribers, and more momentum than ever! Thanks to everyone building our movement!
In 2022, all of our long-term strategies bore fruit. We saw teachers and school boards using our new GASB 77 data to call out corporate tax dodging. We saw activists in Louisiana celebrate their victory for better-funded public services.
We saw investigative journalists using our tools to question subsidy awards. We saw our newest databases — Violation Tracker UK and Amazon Tracker — thrive while our four established databases also empowered activists, journalists, and academics. We saw scholars from dozens of nations use our data.
We saw coalitions in Southern states like South Carolina and Northern states like New York make great use of our help, plus Amazon site-fighters, educators in Missouri — even regulators and journalists in the United Kingdom!
And we have ambitious plans for 2023: more data on consumer lawsuits and dislocated worker rights; more stories on how subsidies fuel racialized inequality; and more studies powered by our unique data.
Read Greg’s whole letter in our Annual Report.
Just How Much Are Schools Losing to Corporate Giveaways?
That’s the question we set out to answer when we scoured all 685 spending reports put out by New York State school districts. The answer turns out to be, a lot.
In fact, schools lost at least $1.8 billion in corporate tax breaks in fiscal year 2021 alone. In 37 school districts, annual per-pupil losses topped $1,000. In seven of those, losses exceeded $5,000.
Imagine what that money could have been spent on: math and reading assistants to provide more personalized help in the classroom; free after-school programs so children have a safe space for learning and comradery; increased access for pre-K students so they’re better prepared for elementary school; better pay for teachers called to do some of a community’s most important work.
The list goes on and on.
Here’s the report, in case you missed it.
Are you interested in learning how much revenue your schools lose to corporate tax abatements? Start by looking in Tax Break Tracker, our database with that information. If you don’t see it, reach out to Amy Rose [email protected] and maybe she can help you track it down.
Transparency Can Prevail If Machines Get Involved
Speaking of Amy, she spends a lot of time digging through end-of-year spending reports (called Annual Comprehensive Financial Reports, or ACFRs) to compile data for Tax Break Tracker. It can be tedious, sure, but it can also be deeply frustrating: Why does one place publish gross abatements and another one net? Why does one include only the offsetting payments, but not the actual revenue losses? Why is one ACFR for fiscal year 2020 not coming out until 2023???!
These details are buried in PDF documents hundreds of pages long. There is technology that would make the research process easier for all of us who want to know how our money is being spent. Let’s make ACFRs machine readable.
Thanks to recently passed federal legislation, it’s possible that could happen very soon. Amy wrote about why the just-passed legislation could enable that. We’ll be pushing to make sure the financial notes are included in that effort.
Subsidies in the News
I’ll leave you with some recent headlines. Journalists are getting increasingly skeptical of companies parachuting into towns with promises of prosperity – they’re asking hard questions about what residents get in return.
You love to see it.
- Nevada Current: As Tesla factory expands, so too could Nevada’s massive tax abatements
- Greensboro News & Record: Eight workplace fatalities occurred in Triad, Northwest NC in 2022
- NY Focus: Kathy Hochul Bets Half a Billion on Horse Racing. Will the Industry Pay Her Back?
- Investigative Post: Report: Tax breaks costing schools big money
- Times-Union: Tax breaks for businesses are costing NY school districts millions, advocates say
- State of Politics: New York lawmakers call for end to tax breaks that hurt schools
- Investigative Post: Niagara IDA ups its subsidies for fast food eateries
- FingerLakes1.com: Policy report says $1.8 billion could have gone to schools if not for IDA tax incentives
- Kansas City Business Journal (paywall): How Opportunity Zones could be a player for $2B Royals stadium, ballpark district
Until next time.