Minnesota uses a mixture of grants, loans, and tax-based subsidies. The most expensive of the programs are the Research and Development Tax Credit and the Data Center Tax Incentive, each of which costs about a $100 million annually. In 2022, the state began offering transferable income tax credits for film and TV productions. In some cases, the state lawmakers craft individualized packages that provide specific companies with large deals.
Minnesota also has about 1,650 Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts that divert about $250 million in property tax revenues each year. Most of these are for redevelopment projects, such as a $53 million TIF created by for a mixed-use development at a former Ford manufacturing site in Saint Paul. In addition, localities and school districts provide businesses with 20-year property tax abatements structured as rebates; they can also use property taxes to pay back bonds issued for economic development projects.
The state Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) approves and administers grants, and the Department of Revenue (DOR) manages tax-based subsidies. The Minnesota Jobs Skills Partnership board approves workforce development awards.
The state had been a pioneer in subsidy disclosure but has significantly retreated from that openness. It does not disclose recipients of sales tax exemptions and tax credits. Grants disclosure is limited but includes company names, subsidy amounts, and job and wage projections and outcomes for the Minnesota Job Creation Fund. DEED also hosts on its website a database that discloses local property tax abatements and TIFs, a rare disclosure among the states, but the outdated system is difficult to use.
DEED posts to its website costs and basic statistical data for all of its subsidy programs. The Office of the State Auditor issues annual TIF reports with program aggregate costs and summary data. The state reports only limited programs under the GASB 77 rule and a handful of school districts report under the rule. About a half of localities report lost revenue, mainly due to TIF.
- See who is responsible for the implementation of GASB 77 on our Minnesota State Road Map.
The Minnesota Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA) is responsible for evaluating at least one subsidy program a year but there is no schedule for each evaluation. The reports must estimate if a program can cause a budget difficulty, an important feature for subsidy accountability.