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Saturday, May 21, 2022

Join our Team, Help Change the World

 Today I have a guest post from my colleague Arlene Martinez, Deputy Executive Director and Communications Director of Good Jobs First.


Arlene here, with the latest dispatch from my favorite workplace (and it could be yours too —we’re hiring!).

But first, our Executive Director Greg LeRoy testified, along with Amazon Labor Union President Christian Smalls and Teamsters General President Sean O’Brien, during a Senate Budget Committee Chair hearing on whether companies that violate labor laws should be debarred from federal contracts.

Here’s what LeRoy said in part:

“When a company violates workers’ rights to freely organize a union, that contradicts a fundamental idea within economic development and public procurement: that public dollars should always serve to raise living standards and reduce inequality, and they should never be used to suppress wages and benefits and exacerbate inequality. Otherwise, why should we collectively favor a company with subsidies or contracts? Why should we pay a company to make inequality worse?”

Read his full testimony. Here’s the Reuters story on the hearing.

Seeking Project Coordinator to Lead our Work on “Defending the Public Against Corporate Tax Breaks”

Good Jobs First is hiring a Project Coordinator responsible for a project that uses a database, reports and technical assistance to document how much revenue government bodies are losing to corporate tax breaks.  

The project, Defending the Public Good against Corporate Tax Breaks, is powered by a recent change in government-accounting rules. For the first time ever, most local and state governments, including school districts, must now report each year how much revenue they lose to corporate tax breaks granted in the name of economic development.

Analysis of the data has confirmed that in some communities, schools in poor areas lose the most revenue to economic development subsidies, and those student populations are often Black and brown. In other places, our analyses have found growth being subsidized in affluent areas, meaning limited public dollars are being wasted to fuel development that would have taken place even without the subsidies.

If you love data, like to see it put into action, and believe good public education should be available to every student no matter where they live, this role might be perfect for you.

Find all the details, including how to apply, here.

The Trouble With South Carolina

South Carolina’s public schools reported $534 million in revenues lost to corporate tax abatements in FY 2021, an increase of 65% compared to just four years earlier.

In fact, in the five years such reporting has been required, South Carolina schools have lost a total of $2.2 billion.

That’s real money — and real implications for students every day.  We talked about the problem, along with solutions (let school boards have a say when counties try to give away education funding!).

Watch the discussion on Facebook, YouTube, or Twitter. And in case you missed the report, check it out here.

Want to stay involved in efforts to get some transparency in South Carolina? Sign up here and we’ll keep you posted.

EV Manufacturers: Don’t be Like Tesla

Who are Canoo, Fisker, Rivian and Lucid? We’ve been frequently contacted lately as unproven electric vehicle companies shake down communities for billions of dollars in subsidies.  

The biggest so far is Rivian, the Amazon-backed company that got a package worth $1.5 billion (and counting) in Georgia. At a per-job cost of $200,000, there’s no way the state can ever break even, LeRoy told the Associated Press: “There’s no way that the average worker in this place is going to pay $200,000 more in state and local taxes [than public services they and their families consume].” (Rivian shares spiked at $179 last fall when it went public and are down 84% since.)

But Madeline Janis, a Forbes contributor and executive director of the nonprofit Jobs to Move America (and Good Jobs First board member), says the EV companies can use the public support for good. Up-and-coming companies needn’t act like Tesla, a workplace rife with allegations of racism and otherwise running afoul of labor laws. They can set the tone for a new type of good job, she writes.

“Companies like Tesla that represent the future shouldn’t be stuck in the past with hostile, dangerous working conditions at their manufacturing plants. Instead, taxpayers should be rewarding companies that use our tax dollars to create good jobs and training programs that create a pipeline of skilled workers, which in turn improves the lives of these workers and their communities.”

Read the full column at Forbes.

And ICYMI: LeRoy wrote about the right way to do EV incentives for Nonprofit Quarterly. States and localities can, by not centering corporate interests, play a significant role in advancing a green economy with equity.

Before I go, one last thing: Good Jobs First is part of a coalition working to end the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), those things that let companies shake down communities for ever-higher economic development subsidies completely in secret. Learn more about our effort at

Know of a project using an NDA in your area? We'd love to hear about it.

Until next time.


Thursday, May 19, 2022

New Study Shows South Carolina Schools are the "Biggest Losers" to Tax Incentive

 A major new study by my colleagues at Good Jobs First found that of any state in the Union, South Carolina schools lose the most to tax incentives. The total in fiscal year (FY) 2021 came to $534 million, 65% more than the first year school districts were required to report their losses to other governments' tax abatements (FY 2017). In South Carolina's case, it is counties which decide on tax incentives and school districts have no say-so, even though property tax abatements usually cost the schools five or six times as much money as they do the counties.

Five or six times as much! Not only did you read that right, but it is actually typical in most states that a municipal government can harvest tax revenues from other taxing jurisdictions.

This study and its predecessors was made possible by the 2015 introduction by the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) of Statement #77, which requires that governments that passively lose tax revenue to other districts must report those losses, in addition to being reported by the government that actively creates the tax incentives. With five years of reports now in the books, this has created a treasure trove of data.

Over those five years, school districts in South Carolina have lost a total of $2.2 billion.

The biggest loser in the state was Berkeley County school district, which lost $84 million in FY 2021, third highest in the nation. Only the Hillsborough 1j district in Oregon and Philadelphia City Schools lost more than that. South Carolina's biggest losers had higher than average poverty rates, in a state with above-average poverty.

By contrast, 2% raises for every teacher in the Berkeley County district would cost $4.5 million, according to the report.

What can be done? The report recommends safeguarding school districts from tax abatements, mandating advanced disclosure of proposed tax incentives to enable public discussion, requiring counties to make company-specific disclosure to make proper evaluation of such deals, and performing audits of each tax break program to ensure it is working as intended.

Such reforms are only common sense, but lack of transparency hampers discussion of subsidies in many areas of the country. The introduction of GASB Statement #77 is helping bring that transparency to debates on tax incentives.