Waste Not: The Data Sleuths Taking on Tax Breaks and Giveaways

December 23, 2020

Good Jobs First started in 1998 to track economic development incentives and push for better government and corporate accountability. Blue Tent profiled the organization, which in 2020 launched Covid Stimulus Watch to track pandemic-related spending. It’s one of four major databases GJF runs. “Disclosure is crucial to reform,” Executive Director Greg LeRoy says.

“The power of data drives the work GJF does. The ‘way the system has evolved,” (LeRoy) says, means that ‘politicians always obscure the costs and exaggerate the benefits.’ GJF has worked with grassroots groups throughout the country to push for more disclosure about tax breaks and other benefits to companies promising more jobs. GJF began its subsidy tracker database 10 years ago, which the group terms ‘the first national search engine for economic development subsidies and other forms of government financial assistance to business.’

Back then, he says, 22 states were disclosing this information. At this point, all 50 states and the District of Columbia are disclosing corporate subsidies.

While the subsidy tracker has been very useful to the public, nothing has beaten another GJF database, Violation Tracker. ‘The thing is insanely popular,’ LeRoy says, noting that it receives 2.9 million pageviews per month. Indeed, its success has prompted interest beyond the U.S. ‘We’re now being asked by a bunch of activists in the U.K. to create a replica there,’ LeRoy says.”

Read the full article at Blue Tent.