Amidst Deliberation Over $14.7M Taxpayer Subsidy for Tesla, Central TX Interfaith Calls for Living Wages
[Excerpts from Community Impact & Austin Monitor]
Travis County commissioners continue to consider a plan to offer electric automaker Tesla millions of dollars in economic incentives to build a factory in eastern Travis County, but with no date yet announced for a decision on the matter. If approved, Tesla could receive nearly $14.7 million in property tax rebates across 10 years with additional rebates in the 10 years following.
At the commissioners' June 30 meeting, Travis County community members again phoned in to voice support and concern regarding the proposed incentives. Several speakers encouraged the county to leverage for greater worker wage and protection commitments.
"We are skeptical. Numerous studies have shown that local governments rarely if ever receive benefits commensurate with what incentives cost, and, despite what they say, businesses rarely if ever give incentives much weight when deciding where to locate," said [Rev.] Michael
Floyd, who spoke on behalf of Central Texas Interfaith....
Floyd...pointed out that even at the average wage cited by Tesla, a family of three would still qualify for Travis County Rental Assistance. Currently, people earning 150 to 250 percent of the federal poverty income guidelines, or $31,580 to $54,300, qualify to receive rental assistance from the county due to an expansion in eligibility requirements resulting from Covid-19.
[Photo Credit: Courtesy Tesla via Community Impact]
County Development Incentive for Tesla Sees More Support, Austin Monitor [pdf]
The city-parish’s efforts to address food deserts in north Baton Rouge and other parts of the city has reached what Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome called a major milestone through the launch of the Healthy Food Retail Initiative...to provide incentives to grocers to set up shop in some of the city-parish’s underserved communities.
Broome was joined by an array of community partners during the announcement Tuesday, one being Together Baton Rouge, which has been working to bring more affordable, healthier food options to parts of the city where grocery stores are scarce.
Edgar Cage, a spokesman affiliated with the faith-based organization, said 23% of the parish’s population live in areas with little choice for healthy food. The national average is 7%, he said.
Together Baton Rouge claims the most vulnerable residents affected by the parish’s food deserts are 19,000 children and 7,000 seniors.
“Early on we knew there needs to be infrastructure created to make things happen,” Cage said.
[Photo Credit: Bill Feig, The Advocate]
Eight months after their victory in reforming the state Industrial Tax Exemption Program (ITEP), leaders of Together Louisiana noticed that industrial tax exemptions spiked 441% in its last year (2016), with the majority of tax exemptions granted after the reforms passed. They additionally noticed that the Commerce and Industry Board reversed the wording of the measure to undermine the reform that would have limited exemptions to proposals that had secured the approval of the local municipalities sacrificing the revenue.Read more
Before a packed house of leaders from Together Louisiana, and after eight intense rounds of public testimony, the Louisiana Board of Commerce and Industry voted to defer all renewal applications for industrial tax exemptions, including an application for property tax breaks by Koch Industries which would have cost (disaster-declared) East Baton Rouge Parish $1.9 million in revenue.Read more
Reforms include requirements that impacted local tax authorities approve the subsidy, including municipal government, school boards and law enforcement; exemptions demonstrate a Return on Investment (ROI) for new jobs or retention of good jobs; and that subsidy applicants sign contractual agreements based on promised investments and local hires.Read more
Study findings show that over the last 10 years, $16.7 billion in local tax revenue has been redirected to subsidize heavy manufacturing, amounting to over $535 thousand per job reportedly created. Louisiana's top 5 environmental polluters, according to the EPA, received $506 million in taxpayer subsidies. Even British Petroleum (BP) received $9.4 million in state subsidies during and after the Deepwater Horizon spill. Louisiana is the only state in the country with a board that gives away local tax revenue, without approval from the local governments losing the money.Read more
Catholic Bishop Joe Vasquez intervened reading a statement of support for the ordinance at a 6pm rally, which was later read by an Austin Interfaith leader in Council chambers. After four hours of testimony and debate, the City of Austin passed, for the first time ever, a requirement that corporations receiving taxpayer incentives be required to pay the City established living wage of $11 per hour or prevailing wages, whichever is higher.Read more
"National Instruments Corp. won approval Thursday for $1.7 million in city of Austin incentives to support the company's proposed expansion of 1,000 Austin jobs over the next 10 years....Read more
COPS/Metro Alliance leaders applauded Maruchan's decision to withdraw their application for tax incentives and welcomed the company to Bexar County. "We reiterate our support for economic development and job creation," said Fr. Steven Gamez, pastor of St. Philip of Jesus Catholic Church and leader with COPS/Metro Alliance. "However, we strongly believe that it is a mistake to offer public subsidies when most of the jobs would pay minimum wage; the free market will take care that and Maruchan's decision proves it."
COPS/Metro leaders had publicly raised questions surrounding this deal because of the impact on working families.... "We agree with Maruchan leaders that 'the additional tax revenues for betterment of the community,' especially bringing up the skills of our workforce. We look forward to working with Maruchan, as well as city and county officials, to create opportunities for those workers who will earn the minimum wage."Read more