Archive for the ‘Sales Tax’ Category

GASB Finally Prepares to Step Up! And Who is GASB, You Ask?

October 7, 2014

For many years, we at Good Jobs First have criticized GASB—the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, or “GAZ-bee”— for failing to require state and local governments to disclose economic development subsidy spending in a uniform way.

It appears that’s finally about to change, and if it does, it will be hard to overstate the significance of the news.

As the group that has been successfully shaming states and cities to disclose on subsidies all these years, with our 50-state and 50-locality “report card” studies, and as the group that has been collecting all the public data—and also lots of previously unpublished data—in our Subsidy Tracker database, we are intimately familiar with the irregularities and gaps that exist in these vital public records. And we have long shown how to fix them in our model legislation.

First, a quick primer on GASB: it is the public-sector counterpart to the Financial Accounting Standards Board, or FASB, which issues private-sector accounting rules. Each body oversees its respective set of rules, which are constantly under review and improvement, known as Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, or GAAP.

Adhering to GASB, cities, counties, states (and other government bodies such as school boards and sewer districts) must account for their finances in conformity to GAAP if they want to receive ratings from the major credit ratings agencies (Moody’s, Standard & Poors, Fitch), which they must earn if they wish to sell bonds.

The same is true for corporations of all kinds if they wish to satisfy shareholders, sell debt, or even get foundation grants. Indeed, Good Jobs First’s auditors have to certify us as GAAP compliant in our annual financial statement. All of which is to say: the influence of GASB and FASB is enormous and ubiquitous; they are the arbiters of sound United States bookkeeping standards that protect investors, taxpayers, and consumers every day. (Both are part of the non-profit Financial Accounting Foundation.)

Now, GASB is preparing rules that say: to meet GAAP, governments will have to publish an annual accounting of the revenue lost to economic development subsidies. The proposed wording of these rules has not been issued; all we have are board-meeting minutes of a low-profile process spanning more than two years, as GASB gathers information and debates how best to achieve this new standard.

GASB is using the term “tax abatement” as an umbrella term (not just specific to local property tax exemptions) but “a reduction in taxes… in which (a) one or more governmental entities forgo tax revenues that [an individual] taxpayer otherwise would have been obligated to pay and (b) the taxpayer promises to take a specific action that contributes to economic development or otherwise benefits the government(s) or its citizens.” This would appear to also cover state corporate income tax credits and state or local sales tax exemptions, but apparently not tax increment financing.

As part of that process, GASB even commissioned a survey that included citizens groups, county board members and bond analysts. Tellingly, the bond analysts said they are most keen to see both current and future-year costs. For cities like Memphis, where we recently found that Payments in Lieu of Taxes (or PILOTs) cost the city almost one-seventh of its property tax revenue, such losses are apparently becoming bigger concerns for bond investors.

GASB will have a three-month comment period on its proposed rules starting next month (November).

For all the cost-benefit debates featuring inflated ripple-effect claims that beg the more fundamental issue of cause and effect, we have always said: the only thing that can be said for sure is that development subsidies are very expensive, so costly that they undermine funding for public goods that benefit all employers. Therefore, at the very least, taxpayers have the right to know the exact price of every deal and every program (and the outcome of every company-specific deal). GASB now appears to be moving to make some form of standardized disclosure of tax-break costs a reality for reporting periods after December 15, 2015 (and sooner on a voluntary basis).

Some important details remain to be clarified. Based on the board minutes, it appears that GASB will propose giving governments the option of disclosing individual deals or only programs costs in the aggregate (the latter option would be far inferior). We’ll know for sure when the draft standards are published sometime this month. Good Jobs First will publish a detailed analysis of the draft when it comes out.

But for now, the big picture is simply huge: the body that effectively controls how taxpayer dollars are accounted for is finally catching up to the Wild West of record-keeping known as economic development incentives.

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!

NYC Unleashes Decades of Subsidy Data

February 1, 2012

After years of nudging by Good Jobs New York and others, subsidy transparency in the Big Apple took a giant leap forward yesterday.

Thanks to the New York City Council and a bill sponsored by Brooklyn’s Diana Reyna, the New York City Industrial Development Agency released data on 623 discretionary subsidy deals. The new report – which includes data as far back at the 1980’s – is trend-setting for being in excel (not just in PDF format) and for including all currently subsidized firms. Previous reports were only required to include project for a seven-year window. Previously, GJNY transcribed this data from PDF’s to create its “Database of Deals” and we will merge the two databases giving New Yorkers of all stripes: advocates, community organizers, elected and public officials, journalists and academics a unique tool that shines a light on how discretionary subsides are allocated.

As we explained in October of 2011 when the bill was passed, New York City is on an up- swing with regards to subsidy transparency. The report, formally known as the Annual Investment Projects Report, includes 126 fields of data including:

  • Current employment, promised employment and employment at time of deal
  • The amounts and types of city subsidies used to date and remaining
  •   Amount of subsidies recaptured
  • Percentage of employees that are city resident
  • Percentage of employees offered health benefits

Combining new subsidy deals, extensive company-specific data in a downloadable, excel format makes what we believe, to be the country’s best local subsidy disclosure report. Though, as reported last month, New York State still has plenty of room for improvement.

Good Jobs New York will be reviewing the data in the weeks ahead and will report back our findings. In the meantime, we encourage you to do the same!

Colorado Stock Show Wants Bucks to Sprawl

September 1, 2011

The location of the future Gaylord convention center complex.

The already controversial proposal to construct a massively subsidized convention center complex outside Denver has become even more divisive following an announcement by the city’s long-running National Western Stock Show that it was considering relocating to the site.

The new hotel-convention center complex in Aurora County, currently under development by Gaylord Hotels, is located near the Denver International Airport.   It is receiving up to $300 million in development subsidies via tax increment revenues from Aurora, whose City Council just approved a blight designation for the 125-acre site, now completely vacant land.  The company has also applied for a raft of state subsidies that include $170 million in sales tax rebates over a 30-year period.

Concerns that the 1,500-room complex will leach convention center and hotel business and tax revenues away from Denver are turning out to be well-founded in light of the National Western Stock Show’s announcement that it is considering a site adjacent to the new development for its annual events.  The show, which is celebrating its 106th anniversary this January, is considered a Denver institution.  (Its Centennial celebration drew 727,000 people.)   Denver voters will need to approve $150 million in general obligation bonds to finance the show’s move to Aurora.  Complicating matters further is the fact that the show benefited from $30 million worth of voter approved bonds in 1989 to upgrade its current facilities at the Denver Union Stockyards.  Under the terms of that contract, the organization is required to stay at its current address in Denver until 2040.

The stock show’s announcement has roused a series of accusations from Denver electeds that the organization is in breach of its existing bond contract.  The contract stipulated that the stock show must maintain the upkeep of its facilities, which have fallen into disrepair according to city council members.   The stock show was additionally required to submit annual reports to the city.  Stock show officials state that these were submitted annually to the city’s Theatres and Arenas Department, but this has not stopped City Auditor Dennis Gallagher from accusing the organization of failing to provide his office with financial reports.

Gallagher recently released a statement lambasting the organization:  “I refuse to see our city, our downtown business, our convention center, our historical heritage and the welfare of Denver taxpayers sold down the river because of over-arching greed.”  Other officials have reacted in kind.  City Council President Chris Nevitt accused the show of “fail[ing] to live up to [its] end of the bargain.”  The heart of the issue was best expressed by Aurora resident Shirley Ney:  “As I look at this land out there, I do not consider this land as blighted,” she said. “I think it’s very valuable land … valuable agricultural land is being eaten up by urban sprawl across this country. This proposal adds to that sprawl.”

Sadly, the wisdom of this sentiment may be lost on the National Western Stock Show, which represents an entire industry dependent on agricultural land.  The problem of subsidizing the development of greenfields is twofold.  It exacerbates the problem of sprawling growth and its associated regional costs, while simultaneously providing an unnecessary financial incentive for businesses to withdraw from the urban core.  A stampede of Denver’s urban businesses to Aurora may become unavoidable when such extravagant development subsidies are involved.

Amazon Prevails in South Carolina

June 6, 2011

Amazon will be allowed to help its customers in South Carolina dodge sales taxes, after all. In a dramatic reversal, Palmetto State legislators approved a bill that gives the online retailer a five-year exemption from collecting sale tax from the state’s residents. The move revives Amazon’s plans for a $125 million distribution center in the state that is projected to create 2,000 jobs. Unfortunately, the bill does not include strong clawback provisions.

The legislation is a defeat for Amazon’s brick-and-mortar competitors, both small businesses and big-box retailers such as Wal-Mart that lobbied hard against the exemption sought by Amazon.

As we previously reported, the original promise to exempt Amazon from its obligation to collect sale taxes was made last year by then-Gov. Mark Sanford and was a part of a subsidy package that included $5 million in free land; $3,250 in tax credits for each job created; and property tax breaks on equipment.

Initially, the House rejected the deal but gave into political pressure stoked by Amazon’s decision to increase its job-creation projection by 750 jobs. Gov. Nikki Haley has opposed the deal, though she now says she will let the bill take effect without her signature.

Limited attention is being paid to the terms of the company’s job promises. The final version of the bill requires Amazon to create 2,000 jobs by the end of 2013 and retain 1,500 jobs between the end of 2013 and January 1, 2016. If the company decides to lay off up to 500 workers after 2013, it will face no consequences. After January 1, 2016 (when the exemption expires), Amazon is not required to retain any specific number of jobs.

If the company does not meet job creation or investment ($125 million) obligations, the only penalty Amazon would face is cancelation of the exemption. There are also no wage requirements for the jobs, though Amazon is required to provide a comprehensive health plan for the workers.

It is disappointing that after the long battle, the legislature did not put measures in place that would truly protect workers and hold Amazon accountable.

South Carolina says Good-bye to Amazon but Hello to even more Wal-Mart stores

May 5, 2011

(A follow-up to a story on sales tax exemption for Amazon in South Carolina from May 3, 2011, You can find everything on Amazon, except sales tax)

Small retailers in South Carolina must be asking themselves: if the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and then we win, and then my “friend” resumes life as another huge enemy, should taxpayers subsidize our demise?

In an announcement that some called a political “payoff,” Wal-Mart and South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley announced this week that the company will open dozens of new stores employing as many as 4,000 people in South Carolina over the next five years (of course, research suggests that Wal-Mart destroys 3 retail jobs for every 2 it “creates). It already has significant presence in the state with 74 stores, two distribution centers, and nine Sam’s Clubs.

The announcement came just a week after the South Carolina House rejected a bill that would give the online retailer Amazon an exemption from collecting sales tax on the state’s residents (as part of a larger subsidy package). One of the active opponents to the Amazon deal was Wal-Mart.

During the Amazon sales tax exemption debate, Wal-Mart, along with other big-box retailers, joined organizations representing small businesses in South Carolina to actively lobby against the deal. Besides its seven lobbyists  pressing the House, Wal-Mart encouraged its South Carolina employees to communicate their opposition to state representatives.   The retailer argued the Amazon exemption would be harmful and unfair to bricks-and-mortar stores. After the House rejected the deal, Amazon cancelled plans to open a distribution center in the state.

Reacting to this week’s Wal-Mart announcement, supporters of the Amazon deal said that Wal-Mart wanted to reward the Governor for her hands-off approach and the House for opposing the Amazon deal, calling the announcement “suspect,” a “shell game,” and “a payoff.”

Over the years, critics of Wal-Mart have pointed to the retailer’s low-wages, unaffordable benefits, lack of career paths for the majority of workers, contribution to sprawl,  and anti-unionism. Some in South Carolina point out now that the same small retailers that Wal-Mart “partnered” with against Amazon will likely become Wal-Mart’s victims as it gains market share by opening more supercenters. 

Wal-Mart’s rhetoric on the Amazon deal was quite ironic. It  argued that Amazon should not be granted sales tax exemption because it would give Amazon unfair advantage over other retailers. But Wal-Mart and developers who build for it are not shy about asking public officials for economic development subsidies that small retailers often consider an unfair advantage. In  Shopping for Subsides: How Wal-Mart Uses Taxpayers Money to Finance Its Never-Ending Growth, Good Jobs First documented that the retailer benefitted from $1 billion in such subsidies (later updated to $1.2 billion) from state and local governments. In South Carolina, for example, Wal-Mart enjoyed a $10 million deal from the City of North Charleston for infrastructure improvements at its supercenter, and a distribution center in Pageland got a deal worth of $28.2 million in various subsides.  (For a national compilation of such deals, see Good Jobs First’s Wal-Mart Subsidy Watch webpage).

Will locally owned retailers now remind Wal-Mart and elected officials about unfair advantage, whether it applies to Amazon or Wal-Mart? Or will the enemy of their enemy cash in as South Carolina subsidizes Wal-Mart’s new facilities?

New Jersey’s $1 Billion Subsidy Spree

May 4, 2011

Xanadu, an "offense to the eyes."

According to a new report released last week by New Jersey Policy Perspective (NJPP), a nonpartisan policy research center based in Trenton, Gov. Christie’s administration has awarded $822 million in economic development subsidies in its first 15 months in office.  A Surge in Subsidies documents the recent torrent of tax credit and grants awarded by the Economic Development Authority at a time when the state is slashing budget items for education, health, and social services.

NJPP examined just four of the state’s many economic development subsidy programs.  The controversial Business Employment Incentive Program redirects the personal income tax withholding of employees to participating businesses.  The recently enacted Economic Redevelopment and Growth Grant (ERG) program has been used to approve awards totaling an astounding $351 million in diverted tax increments to New Jersey companies since February of 2010.  Once laudable for its geographic targeting, the Urban Transit Hub Tax Credit is now used so extensively that it is poised to become a major revenue drain for the state.

Despite abundant criticism of recent deals such as the state’s decision to bail out a casino owned by Morgan Stanley ($261 million through ERG) and $101 million to relocate Panasonic’s North American headquarters just eight miles, New Jersey continues to dole out major subsidies.  Gov. Christie once called the stalled Xanadu mall project “an offense to the eyes as you drive up the turnpike.”  Now, he favors a $200 million tax break to rescue the project.

NJPP president Deborah Howlett notes that the Xanadu subsidy brings the 16-month subsidy spending total to over $1 billion, yet “all of that spending to spur job creation has had almost no effect on the unemployment rate.”

You can find everything on Amazon, except sales tax

May 3, 2011

 Subsidy deals normally involve reductions in a company’s tax bill, but Amazon recently abandoned a distribution center project in South Carolina because the state decided not to make it easier for the online retailer’s customers to avoid paying sales taxes on their purchases.

The complicated dispute began last year, when the previous administration of Gov. Mark Sanford offered Amazon a five-year exemption from the obligation to collect sales taxes on purchases made by South Carolina residents. In recent months, both the new governor, Nikki Haley, and growing numbers of legislators criticized the plan, leading to a lopsided vote against the exemption in the South Carolina House last week.

For an online company such as Amazon, the ability not to collect taxes is worth a lot more than conventional “incentives.” It provides a competitive advantage over brick-and-mortar stores that have to tack on the additional amount to a customer’s bill, making their prices seem higher. Big retail corporations such as Wal-Mart, Target and Best Buy have lined up against Amazon by supporting organizations such as Alliance for Main Street Fairness that represent small business.

Note: The fact that Amazon declines to collect the taxes does not mean the transactions themselves are exempt. Customers are supposed to voluntarily submit the appropriate amount to state authorities but rarely do so.

The issue extends far beyond South Carolina. Amazon has been battling with states around the country over sales tax issues. In states where Amazon does not have a physical presence such as a distribution center or a store (the technical term is nexus), the company relies on a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court ruling to justify its refusal to collect sales tax. In states where the company has such a presence, Amazon has been seeking to get exemptions from its collection obligation.  

Some states are fighting back. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy notes in a brief that public officials in many states, with the support of traditional retailers, are beginning to pass laws requiring that online retailers like Amazon collect sales tax even when there is no nexus. Some states have expanded the definition of a “physical presence” to include affiliates (for example, a business that has an Amazon advertisement on its website and gets a commission when a client clicks on the ad). Amazon tries to combat these laws. After New York passed its legislation, Amazon unsuccessfully tried to challenge it in court. The company also has threatened to cut relations with its affiliates, as it did in Texas and plans to do in Illinois.

The South Carolina sales tax exemption was unusual because it had been offered to the company as a part of a bigger subsidy package which included an obligation to create 1,249 full time jobs (with health benefits) and 2,500 temporary positions by 2013. The promised deal had to be approved by the state legislature. After the last election, the subsidy lost the support of many of the state’s Republicans, especially Tea Party-supported legislators who focused on tax cuts for all businesses. They also wanted a public review of subsidy deals. Governor Nikki Haley said she would not have promised a deal such as this one, but if the legislature passed the Amazon bill, she would not veto it. Some Senators said the state had to keep its word, and the sales tax exemption bill passed the Senate Finance Committee. But the House killed the deal by a vote of 71 to 47.

Although focused on sales tax collection issues, Amazon has taken traditional subsidies in other states. In Tennessee, to encourage Amazon to build two distribution centers and create 1,400 jobs by the end of 2011, the state offered the company, in addition to a sales tax exemption, free land, job-training support, and $12 million in property tax breaks. In 1999, the company received millions of dollars in free land, tax breaks, and job training programs from Kansas, Kentucky and Georgia.  Additionally, in Kentucky, the company was allowed to keep 4 percent of withholding taxes on each employee paycheck.

South Carolina deserves some credit for standing up to Amazon, but the state’s economic development practices still need a lot of improvement. The state fared poorly in Good Jobs First’s 2010 rankings of states’ subsidy transparency due to its lack of online recipient reporting for any of its major economic development programs.  Hopefully the Amazon conflict will prompt the state to adopt accountability reforms.  If nothing else, the Amazon episode shows that no deals between public officials and private companies should be made behind closed doors, without public debate, and should be offered only when truly needed.

Colorado Proposal Would “STIF” Taxpayers

March 4, 2011

Buckingham Square Mall, Aurora, Colorado

The Colorado Senate is evaluating a risky new development subsidy proposal that passed in the House last week.  House Bill 1220 would, for the first time, allow the diversion of incremental state sales tax revenues to back bonds used to finance road construction for new retail projects.  Specifically, the bill would permit sales tax increment financing (STIF) to be used for projects that have been approved by the state department of transportation but lack dedicated state funding to secure federal highway matching funds.

The policy problems inherent in this bill are many.  STIF is designed to subsidize retail projects, ignoring the fact that they are not a very effective form of economic development.  Building new stores doesn’t grow the economy – it only shifts consumer spending from one place to another.  Providing subsidies to move low-wage retail jobs around a metro area is a waste of taxpayer funds.  The East-West Gateway Council of Governments (St. Louis metro region) found in its January 2011 study that the region had spent $4.6 billion subsidizing retail development between 1990 and 2007.  During that period, 5,700 new retail jobs were created in the metro area, at an apparent cost of $370,000 per job.

STIF makes a poor economic development tool for other reasons as well.  Sales tax receipts are unpredictable, especially during leaner economic periods.  Determining the value of the incremental increase in sales tax revenues is nearly impossible if assessors attempt to estimate how much retail spending is “new” and how much was merely cannibalized from nearby retail establishments.  STIF also promotes the fiscalization of land use—the unwise practice of letting tax revenue considerations control planning decisions.  California repealed STIF in 1993 to avoid this problem.  Colorado’s proposal is worse because it would only subsidize new retail developments that rely on highway access, making it biased against existing retailers in urban centers.

Another important consideration is that Colorado can’t afford to sacrifice the existing sales tax revenues that it would lose to STIF-subsidized development.  As a TABOR (Taxpayer Bill of Rights) state, Colorado cannot raise new revenues without statewide voter approval.  This is likely the reason that the development lobby is seeking this subsidy in the first place.  As a result of the economic recession and TABOR, Colorado’s fiscal crisis is so dire that the state cannot afford to fund highway transportation projects despite the fact that federal matching funds are on the table.

HB 1220 would sidestep the appropriations process for funding highway construction, shortchange the state’s sales tax revenue collection, subsidize the relocation of low-wage jobs in suburban fringe areas, and contribute to the growing list of dead malls in Colorado.

Cooper Tire’s Novel Approach to Subsidy Competition: Pay to Survive

January 23, 2009

In a grim variation of the subsidy game that may become more common in a tanking economy, Cooper Tire last month successfully squeezed over $66 million in subsidies for plants in three states, pushed down union wages and benefits, and eliminated one plant altogether.

Cooper Tire announced in October that it would close one of its four U.S. plants. It then “invited” employees and state and local governments in the different locations to help it decide by offering worker concessions and public subsidies.

The plants pitted against each other were in Tupelo, Mississippi (1200 workers), Texarkana, Arkansas (1,400 workers), Findlay, Ohio (1,100 workers), and Albany, Georgia (1,400 workers).

Mississippi moved quickly to offer Cooper Tire state and local subsidies worth more than $36 million, mostly in workforce training and infrastructure improvements. Some press reports suggested Mississippi’s speed in offering a subsidy package put pressure on the competing sites, especially the unionized ones.

The Findlay and Texarkana plants stayed open after new agreements with their United Steelworkers bargaining units were reached. The locals made significant concessions on wages and on employee contributions to health care costs, in each case worth $30 million over 3 years. The Tupelo and Albany workforces are not unionized.

In addition to worker concessions, the company received $2 million from the Arkansas Governor’s “quick action” closing fund; a 6.5 percent sales tax credit for capital improvements; a five-year, two percent income tax credit for and a 10-year, five percent rebate on payroll for new employees. Cooper Tire received $28.5 million in tax credits, grants and loans from Ohio state and local governments. Georgia reportedly offered $32 million in incentives in an unsuccessful bid to sustain the Albany facility.

In December, Cooper announced the Albany plant would close, with the three surviving plants adopting a “24/7” production schedule that the company said might lead to further hiring. The comparative weight of subsidies, union concessions, and other factors in Cooper Tire’s decision was not clear, although Cooper Tire’s 2006 conversion of its Arkansas factory into a “flex” plant more adaptable to production increases and decreases may have helped it survive.

Cooper Tire CEO Roy Armes called the Albany plant’s closing a “difficult decision,” but said it would “allow Cooper to optimize our global footprint and capitalize on current and future market opportunities.”

Mississippi officials and press treated the survival of the Tupelo plant as a consolation for the indefinite delay of production at Toyota’s nearby Blue Springs plant, for which Mississippi has pledged $323 million. A Jackson Clarion-Ledger editorialist saw the Georgia plant closing as warning states not to forget existing companies while chasing new ones.

But the real lesson is how easily Cooper Tire could compound the pain of a plant shutdown in one state by extracting wealth from workers and taxpayers in three others.