Four Subsidy Stories You Might Have Missed This Week
1. NYPIRG Executive Director Blair Horner explains why Governor Hochul needs to restore the Comptroller’s oversight powers by signing S6809/A7925 (WAMC). Horner goes into the history of the issue, from Governor Cuomo removing the powers in 2011, to the Buffalo Billion bid-rigging scandal of 2015, to the Legislature finally taking action this year.
The governor has yet to say if she’ll approve the bill restoring Comptroller oversight. Approval of the legislation would send a powerful signal that Governor Hochul understands the need for stronger independent oversight of contracting. She has seen how the previous Administration’s preference for speed over accountability can lead to corruption.
2. The Erie County Industrial Agency voted to give a $3.1 million tax break for a South Buffalo pot farm, amounting to $83,440 per job (Investigative Post). This follows roughly $3.5 million in discounted hydropower approved by the New York Power Authority in January. Tim Bartik has said that subsidy deals costing more than $50,000 per job are unlikely to significantly benefit the economy.
Using a full-time-equivalent calculation for the jobs, the IDA subsidies work out to $83,440 per job. As of 2020, the average cost-per-job for subsidies awarded by IDAs statewide was $5,752,according to the New York State Comptroller.
3. At Boondoggle, Pat Garofalo details “three ways Congress could end the state subsidy wars” – taxing away corporate benefits, making other federal aid conditional on ending subsidies, and swapping subsidies for more federal funding. Garofalo is not particularly optimistic that any of these will happen soon.
[…] One of the chief reasons that such spending continues when the weight of the academic evidence says it is worthless is that no one city or state wants to unilaterally disarm. Having Congress step in would solve that problem.
4. America has shifted from regulating business to subsidizing it, writes former US Secretary of Labor Robert Reich (The Guardian). Reich says the federal CHIPS bill was part of a “global shakedown” by Intel and other semiconductor manufacturers.
Today it’s politically difficult, if not impossible, for government to demand that corporations (and their shareholders) bear the costs of public goods. Government must bribe them instead.
Fun fact: Corporations rank “tax exemptions” even lower than before as an important factor in site selection, according to the latest annual survey from Area Development, a magazine for manufacturing and service sector executives. In the survey, corporations are asked to list the most important factors for choosing a site. While “tax exemptions” did fall from #8 to #10, the number of respondents who said exemptions are “important” or “very important,” is now 82.4, up from 78.6. “State and local incentives” is ranked #8 (not necessarily tax incentives), with 84.5% saying it’s a factor. “Labor costs,” “availability of skilled labor,” and “energy availability and costs” top the list.
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