Mississippi became the birthplace of state-legislated job subsidies when it used public money to poach a company from Chicago in the 1930s. Over the decades the state has spent billions encouraging foreign automakers and their suppliers, such as Nissan, Toyota, and Continental Tire, to build and expand within the state.
State economic development subsidy programs employ bonds, tax credits, tax exemptions, and diversion of personal income tax withholding—they even allow companies to charge their employees “job development assessment fees” (wage cuts which workers can then claim as credits on their personal income tax returns). On local level, companies benefit from property tax abatements via Fee in Lieu of Property Tax (FILOT) and by using state-issued industrial revenue bonds.
The Mississippi Development Authority (MDA) manages the majority of state subsidies, and the Department of Revenue (DOR) manages payouts of tax-based subsidies. The Film Office, which is part of the MDA, administers film subsidies. Local authorities negotiate and approve various property tax abatements.
MDA publishes Incentive Reports on its website annually. Those PDF reports list recipients and basic location and job data for major grant and rebate programs. Tax-based subsidies, however, have no recipient-level disclosure. Local subsidy disclosure is also non-existent.
The state lists several programs under the GASB 77 rule but withholds cost data for most of the programs, arguing those amounts are confidential. A handful of school districts mention the rule in their financial statements, but they do not provide data on foregone revenue. The MDA’s Incentive Reports and the Tax Expenditure Reports include costs of grants, rebates, and tax-based programs.
Mississippi has one of the best systems to evaluate subsidies, according to Pew Charitable Trusts. The University Research Center, part of the state’s public university system, is tasked with evaluating programs every four years. A 2016 evaluation pointed to the lack of subsidy data and suggested that MDA and DOR must collect more and better information from subsidy recipients. The recommendations have yet to be acted upon.