Five Subsidy Stories You Might Have Missed This Week


1. The Buffalo Bills owners want a new $1.1 billion stadium – and they’re asking for the public to foot the bill (Buffalo News). Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes says the ask is “not realistic.”

In the case of a new stadium, people close to the talks who support the Bills note there have been many studies over the years showing that pro sports stadiums, from a purely economic model factoring in stadium costs, can be revenue-neutral at best and not a major driver of new jobs, especially if a pro team is already in the community.

2. Without action from the state legislature, real estate tax break 421-a will expire next year – and developers are worried. Housing advocates say the subsidy, which will cost NYC $1.7 billion in FY 2021, is a handout to real estate.

The most recent iteration of the policy made the tax break more expensive for the public, by extending the tax exemption to 25 years and then abating taxes for another 10 years. Developers of large projects (300 units or more) in certain parts of the city can pay no taxes for 35 years and get a tax exemption of up to three years during the building’s construction, as long as they prove that they paid prevailing wages to their construction workers.

3. The upstate Warren-Washington Industrial Development Agency gave out $2.1 million in tax breaks for a project, only to have the subsidies stopped by the town assessor. Now the IDA and developers are suing to overturn the assessor’s decision (The Post-Star). (Hat tip to Paul Wolf at the New York Coalition for Open Government for sharing!).

The agreement was estimated to save the developers $2.1 million in property taxes over 10 years. The project, which has been years in development, consists of 142 apartment units and 5,000 square feet of office space […] Town Supervisor John Strough declined to comment Tuesday, citing pending litigation. But in court documents, Ross contends the agency only has authority to approve tax breaks for the office space and overstepped its legal authority in granting tax relief to the rest of the project because the apartments do not create any permanent jobs.

4. Trillion-dollar companies like Google and Facebook are bringing data centers to small-town America – and costing local governments millions in tax revenue (Time).

Google is one of the most valuable companies in America, worth nearly $2 trillion dollars—roughly double what it was worth in 2019. On Tuesday it reported record profits of $18.5 billion; Apple said it made $21.7 billion in the quarter and Microsoft earned $16.5 billion, up 47% from the same period last year. But few big tech companies that are building and hiring across America bring that wealth with them when they set up in new communities. Instead, they hire armies of low-paid contractors, many of whom are not guaranteed a job from one month to the next; some of the contracting companies have a history of alleged mistreatment of workers. Nor do local governments share in the companies’ wealth; instead, the tech giants negotiate deals—the details protected by non-disclosure agreements—that exempt them from paying taxes that would fund schools, roads and fire departments.

5. At Boondoggle, Pat Garofalo details how casinos harm local tax bases and communities.

Studies have shown that casinos have a very modest impact on employment, sometimes increasing it, sometimes not, with success very dependent on the particular circumstances in that location. Meanwhile, they tend to decrease state revenue, even though gambling tends to be taxed at a higher rate than other things. There are also harms from bringing an addictive form of entertainment into the community, which wind up costing money to ameliorate too.

If you got this from a friend, sign up here. Subsidy Sheet is written by Tom Speaker, Policy Analyst at Reinvent Albany. Please send questions and tips to We look forward to hearing from you!