Tax Breaks, Transparency, and Accountability: A Conversation with Greg LeRoy
The "economic war among the states (and suburbs)" is on steroids, says Greg LeRoy, founder of Good Jobs First. Large companies such as, General Electric, Tesla, or Boeing have great power to play states and cities against each other for nine- and ten-figure subsidy packages. There is no leadership for restraint from the federal government or the National Governors Association, and no success has been found in state or federal litigation strategies, he says. So activists have demanded greater transparency to win accountability. They have won a great deal of progress: every state now discloses at least some of its deal-making online, which Good Jobs First captures in Subsidy Tracker; money-back clawbacks and job quality standards are commonplace; and some communities have agreed to attach various community benefits to deals. Now with the adoption of the Governmental Accounting Standards Board GASB Statement No. 77 on Tax Abatement Disclosures, a new era of transparency is unfolding: for 2016 and beyond, states and most localities will have to account for the revenue they lose to corporate tax breaks. Even school districts that lose revenue passively will have to report such expenditures. Property taxes, whose records are so extremely dispersed, will be the most affected, gaining the most in transparency. This is significant because property tax abatements often comprise the single largest tax breaks in development deals. Join Greg LeRoy for a brief presentation followed by a conversation with Lincoln Institute President George W. "Mac" McCarthy. This event is the second in a yearlong series that is part of the Lincoln Institute's campaign to promote municipal fiscal health.
Dubbed "the leading national watchdog of state and local economic development subsidies" and "God's witness to corporate welfare," Greg LeRoy @GregLeRoy4 founded and directs Good Jobs First, a national resource center promoting accountability in the >$70 billion spent annually by states and cities for economic development, and smart growth for working families. Good Jobs First is home to Subsidy Tracker, the only national database of subsidy awards (480,000 state, local and federal deals). He is the author of The Great American Jobs Scam: Corporate Tax Dodging and the Myth of Job Creation (2005) and No More Candy Store: States and Cities Making Job Subsidies Accountable (1994). Good Jobs First was recently honored by State Tax Notes magazine as one of two organizations of the year in 2015 for its victory winning a new accounting rule from the Governmental Accounting Standards Board. He earned a BSJ from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University and an M.A. in U.S. history from Northern Illinois University.