Archive for May, 2012

Subsidy Tracker Starts to Take On Localities

May 30, 2012

Subsidy Tracker, the Good Jobs First database on economic development subsidy awards, has begun its expansion from state programs to local ones. To kick things off, we have added more than 20,000 listings from New York City, Chicago and Miami.

The bulk of these are entries from NYC-specific programs that had been collected by our affiliate Good Jobs New York for its Database of Deals. Each item displays basic information while also providing a link to the GJNY website for additional details. We also have data on Chicago’s tax increment financing program going back to the late 1980s as well as info for Miami-Dade County’s Targeted Jobs Incentive Fund. We haven’t forgotten about state programs. Among the new entries are training reimbursement subsidies in Florida, Iowa and Louisiana.

Subsidy Tracker now contains more than 153,000 entries from 335 programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Here is a complete list of the latest additions:

  • Florida: Incumbent Worker Training (FY2010 to Apr 2012)
  • Florida: Miami-Dade County: Targeted Jobs Incentive Fund (2003 to May 2012)
  • Florida: Quick Response Training (FY2010 to Apr 2012)
  • Illinois: Chicago: Tax Increment Financing (1987 to May 2012)
  • Iowa: Industrial New Jobs Training (260E) (2002 to May 2012)
  • Louisiana: LED FastStart (2009 to 2011)
  • Nevada: Personal Property Tax Abatement (FY1999-FY2008)
  • Nevada: Real Property Tax Abatement (FY1999-FY2008)
  • New York: NYC: Commercial Growth Project (1986 to 2011)
  • New York: NYC: Industrial Incentive Program (1986 to 2011)
  • New York: NYC: Job Creation and Retention Program (2002 to 2009)
  • New York: NYC: Manufacturing Facilities Bond (1986 to 2011)
  • New York: NYC: Small Firm Attraction and Retention Grant (2002 to 2008)
  • New York: NYC: Small Industry Incentive (1986 to 2011)
  • New York: NYC: World Trade Center Business Recovery Grant (2001 to 2004)
  • Texas: Enterprise Zones (2003 to 2010)

Film Subsidies for Lung Cancer

May 23, 2012

Film production subsidies are already among the most controversial tax breaks in America today. But did you know that many states spend more money subsidizing films that promote smoking to teenagers than they spend on smoking prevention and cessation programs?

The following text is brought to you as a public service from Smoke Free Movies, based on ads in Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and State Legislatures. See the ad here and learn more about the issue here.

— Greg LeRoy, Good Jobs First

For decades, tobacco companies paid Hollywood to push smoking in movies.

Why are state taxpayers doing it now?

In March 2012, based on documentary evidence, the US Surgeon General reported that, for decades, US tobacco companies gave Hollywood valuable incentives to promote smoking in movies.

Today, so do taxpayers.

Through state film production incentives, states hand hundreds of millions of dollars to producers of movies with smoking.

Research indicates that exposure to on-screen smoking accounts for a million current teen smokers in the U.S. Indiscriminate film subsidies undermine states’ own efforts to keep kids from starting to smoke and avert billions in health costs.

No state can afford this deadly, wasteful policy conflict. Fortunately, the fix is straightforward.

As the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended last year, states can simply make future media productions with tobacco imagery ineligible for public subsidy.

There’s no First Amendment issue. After all, state subsidy programs already filter out film projects for a range of other content.

Whether or not you think film subsidies make sense as economic development policy, collateral damage to kids’ health makes them unsupportable.

It’s time to mend state film incentives or end them. Learn more at

Sources: US Surgeon General. Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General (2012), Chapter 5: The tobacco industry’s influences on the use of tobacco among youth.

US CDC. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Smoking in top-grossing movies — United States, 2010. July 15, 2011.

Smoke Free Movies –

Smoking in movies kills in real life. Smoke Free Movie policies — the R-rating, certification of no payoffs, anti-tobacco spots, and an end to brand display — are endorsed by the World Health Organization, American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Heart Association, Legacy, American Lung Association, Americans for Nonsmokers’ Rights, American Public Health Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, Los Angeles County Dept. of Health Services, New York State Department of Health, New York State PTA, and many others. Visit SFM online or contact: Smoke Free Movies, UCSF School of Medicine, San Francisco, CA 94143-1390.

Colorado Governor Doesn’t Buy Sales Tax Giveaway

May 10, 2012

Westernaires and Color Guard in Downtown Denver opening the National Western Stock Show

Advocates of accountability and fiscal responsibility in Colorado recently achieved a major victory when Governor John Hickenlooper vetoed a controversial economic development bill.  SB 124 was designed to amend the state’s existing Regional Tourism Act, which allows Colorado’s Economic Development Commission to award portions of sales tax revenue as a subsidy to projects deemed important enough to attract out-of-state tourism dollars.  If signed by the Governor, it would have increased the number of allowable projects this year from two to six.

The bill was made all the more contentious by the fact that the Economic Development Commission is currently in possession of an application for the existing Regional Tourism subsidy from Gaylord Entertainment Co., which is constructing a massive hotel-convention center complex in Aurora, Colorado.  The complex, located close to Denver International Airport, has been criticized for its potential to leech convention center business from Denver.  Confirming these fears, the announcement by the Western Stock Show–a Denver institution for over a century–of its intent to relocate to Aurora gave the issue a public symbol in the media.  The Gaylord complex is already approved for a tax increment financing (TIF) subsidy by the city of Aurora and has applied for an additional $170 million in sales tax TIF subsidies through the state’s Regional Tourism Act.

Concerns over intra-regional competition for jobs and tax revenues was not lost on Gov. Hickenlooper, who in his veto letter stated: “the [Regional Tourism Act] does not contemplate…projects that are likely to serve only the interests of a particular community.”  The Governor’s decision also reflected his concern that politicizing subsidy-awarding process would reduce the program’s effectiveness and accountability.  “This [veto] will help ensure the state sales tax increment revenue is used appropriately, and that the EDC is awarding projects that will in fact drive tourism and economic development…we want to ensure that the RTA process remains competitive, resulting in the most ‘unique’ and ‘extraordinary’ projects being approved,” he wrote.

TIF subsidies derived from property tax are used liberally in Colorado by local governments, but the use of sales tax revenues as a subsidy has been restricted thus far.  Recent years have brought multiple ill-informed efforts to deregulate and loosen rules on the TIF-ing of sales tax.  Many of these proposed tax giveaways have been beaten back by a coalition of groups led by the Colorado Fiscal Policy Institute, which successfully defeated a number of wasteful business tax credit and subsidy bills this session.

Congratulations to our allies on their hard-earned victory!

Living Wage Bill passes in the Big Apple

May 2, 2012
photo by Good Jobs New York

James Parrott of the Fiscal Policy Institute at a press conference on the Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act.

What started out as an attempt to guarantee benefits to Bronx residents at a redeveloped armory over a decade ago found its way to City Hall Monday with the passage of Fair Wages for New Yorkers Act. The bill was sponsored by Bronx Council Members G. Oliver Koppell and Annabel Palma.

Efforts to redevelop the city-owned armory fell through in 2009 when the city prevented a developer from entering into a Community Benefits Agreement with the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance. In response to that campaign and concerns regarding wages in city-subsidized developments, a new city-wide campaign for better wages took hold led by the Retail Wholesale Department Store Union and Living Wage NYC a coalition of community, civic and religious organizations.

The final version of the Living Wage bill is narrower than campaign organizers would have liked (tenants of subsidized project won’t be covered, for example). Still, supporters of the bill report it is the strongest living wage law in the country and assert this is only a first step to expand Living Wage ordinances in the city.

Information on the Fair Wages for New Yorkers bill can be found here, but the fundamentals are:

  • Commercial and Industrial firms receiving $1 million or more in discretionary subsidies and have gross revenue of $5 million or more would have to pay their employees at least $10.00 an hour or $11.50 if no health benefits are provided;
  • Developments on property sold by the city for more than $1 million below market value would be covered;
  • Manufacturers and nonprofit organizations would be exempt;
  • Tenants of subsidized firms (e.g., retail stores, restaurants) would be excluded.

On a worthwhile transparency note, the bill would require firms that receive more than $1 million in subsidies (whether or not a firm would be subject to the living wage requirement) to provide wage data for all employees in lower-wage sectors such as retail and restaurants. This goes beyond what is currently required in an already laudable transparency bill approved in December of 2010.

However, it is unclear whether this bill will go into effect. Last week, Mayor Bloomberg gave an address attacking wage requirements at subsidized firms and during a radio show compared them to Communism. Bloomberg has vowed to veto the bill and if that is overridden (as is expected) he will continue to fight it in the courts.

Regardless of the bill’s future, a victory lap is being taken by City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, whose political dexterity has allowed her to use the issue advantageously as she positions herself to run for mayor next year, (Mayor Bloomberg is term-limited out of office). In the New York City Council, where bills generally only move forward with support of the Speaker, Quinn skillfully maneuvered the living wage bill through controversial waters. In the year ahead, irrespective of her audience, she can take credit with community and labor groups for her support of a campaign to help lift workers out of poverty and with the city’s business interests for curtailing the bill so much it would cover a relatively small portion of the city workforce.

Quinn has received both praise and criticism for walking out of a press conference celebrating the living wage bill when a heckler refused to apologize for calling Mayor Bloomberg a “Pharaoh”.