Outbreak of Corporate Patriotism
Voluntary Subsidy Refunds Helping Cash-Crunched Governments Pay for Soaring Pandemic Response Costs
Washington, DC—With tax revenues plunging and healthcare costs soaring due to the coronavirus pandemic, some major corporations are volunteering to pay back the huge tax breaks and grants they’ve received as “economic development incentives.” They are also agreeing to forego future subsidies by canceling incentive deals.
“We applaud these forward-thinking employers,” said Good Jobs First Executive Director Greg LeRoy. “This pandemic may go down in history as a giant reset moment, when common sense and public integrity prevail over short-term greed in economic development policymaking.”
Amazon.com, Inc. said it would refuse the $550 million in payments it is due from the State of Virginia for its HQ2 project in Arlington (one of the smallest bids it received). “ It turns out that tech talent was the biggest driving factor for us,” Amazon vice president Brian Huseman said of Northern Virginia. “Both tech talent on day one, but also tech talent in the future. …What was unique about Virginia was its commitment to developing that long-term talent pipeline and closing the skills gap.”
Toyota announced it is repaying a $40 million subsidy it was given by then-Texas governor Rick Perry for relocating its North American headquarters from California to Plano. The Enterprise Fund grant “wasn’t one of the major reasons [in] deciding to go to Texas,” a spokeswoman said. “It may seem like a juicy story to have this confrontation between California and Texas, but that was not the case,” said Toyota’s North American CEO Jim Lentz.
American Express said it would repay $25 million it received for staying in Lower Manhattan after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. “Our decision to return downtown, which has been our home for more than 150 years, was not predicated on financial incentives,” said a spokesman.
Bloomberg announced it would do everything it could to help the nation’s COVID-19 epicenter, New York, by refunding the $29.8 million it has been awarded by the state for five data centers. “ Any company that makes a decision as to where they are going to be based on the tax rate is a company that won’t be around very long…” said the company’s founder, billionaire Michael Bloomberg. “If you’re down to that incremental margin you don’t have a business.”
Editor’s Note: Today is April Fool’s Day but our nation’s crisis is no gag. All of the corporate quotes here are actually true; citations upon request. We wish that their purported actions were also true and that other subsidized corporations would follow suit.)