Opinion: Taxpayers are right to question incentives for economic development — and not just for Amazon

If you’re interested in the many ways our ‘Reps’ are allowing huge corporations to screw us taxpayers and destroy our communities, you might be interested in the ways they are actively making sure that we can’t find out about it, this is a great article. And kinda long.

Opinion: Taxpayers are right to question incentives for economic development — and not just for Amazon

Companies secretly renegotiate deals so they don’t have to deliver the jobs first promised


Something to hide?
The Texas Enterprise Fund, which started in 2003, allows the state to offer cash grants to companies in exchange for promises of investments and job creation. As of Jan. 1, the program had provided over $600 million in cash incentives to companies vowing to create over 94,000 direct jobs in Texas.

In our study, we submitted public records requests for company applications and agreements for grants. We wanted to see what companies had promised the state in return for the cash.
Our research led to two troubling findings. First, public record law in Texas allows companies themselves to legally challenge requests — which is controversial yet not uncommon among other states.

In our study, 42 out of the 165 recipient companies submitted legal challenges to our requests. Before even seeing the data, we were asking ourselves: What are these companies trying to hide


To our surprise, over a quarter of companies in the program — or 46 — had renegotiated their incentive deals with the state. These deals weren’t announced by the governor’s office nor were they reported anywhere online.

Our public records request is still unfolding and we still haven’t received the contracts for roughly two-thirds of these companies. For the 63 companies whose contracts we received, 29 had amendments to the original


In the cases of New York and Virginia — the other state that received a new Amazon location as a part of its “HQ2” bidding process — the agreements they signed requires them to notify the online retailer of any public records requests in order to give it the opportunity to legally challenge them.

More broadly, secrecy pervades the entire process of economic development. For example, during the many months-long competition to win HQ2, Wisconsin officials purposely routed their Amazon bid through agencies not subject to public records requests, emails show. And cities like Austin and Los Angeles submitted their bids through non-public entities like the Chambers of Commerce as a way to shield them from public scrutiny.


The scathing audit of New York’s Excelsior Jobs Program found not only a lack of due diligence but also a staff that had changed the required number of jobs for companies that were falling short of their creation requirements. And this program would have also provided much of the incentives for Amazon’s HQ2


Amazon selects New York City and Northern Virginia for new headquarters

Amazon will receive performance-based direct incentives of $1.525 billion based on the company creating 25,000 jobs in Long Island City. This includes a refundable tax credit through New York State’s Excelsior Program of up to $1.2 billion calculated as a percentage of the salaries Amazon expects to pay employees over the next 10 years, which equates to $48,000 per job for 25,000 jobs with an average wage of over $150,000; and a cash grant from Empire State Development of $325 million based on the square footage of buildings occupied in the next 10 years. Amazon will receive these incentives over the next decade based on the incremental jobs it creates each year and as it reaches building occupancy targets. The company will separately apply for as-of-right incentives including New York City’s Industrial & Commercial Abatement Program (ICAP) and New York City’s Relocation and Employment Assistance Program (REAP).


Right now TPTB have got us right where they want us. Fighting against each other and begging for scraps. They use two basic ploys to get us to roll over. The Sit Up and Beg and The Carrot and the Stick. This Amazon/NYC fiasco is the PERFECT example.

21 users have voted.


I heard the topic discussed in the news. Supposedly Amazon 'makes' the public officials sign non-disclosure agreements. How do public officials even agree to this?

Oh wait, how much is Amazon funding their offshore accounts?

I've decided that if a government contract or outsourcing does not make sense, the politicians are taking kickbacks.

It's disgusting to watch elected officials shovel public funds to the wealthy.

And conservatives supposedly object to government picking winners. Well, governments at all levels picks winners all of the time, leaving other businesses in the dust.

13 users have voted.


dystopian's picture

Pro sports team owners (billionaires) have used this model forever having the public build their venue. Ask St. Louis how that worked out with the Rams. It is the same abuse of public funds, for the rich guy to get richer. The NFL gets the cities all bidding against each other, with more and more amenities in the stadiums, that we all pay for. So the guy with billions doesn't have to use his money to build his business, like the little people do.

13 users have voted.

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.
both - Albert Einstein

@dystopian seems inevitably to be built on top of what was a poorer black or brown neighborhood. Hmmm.

8 users have voted.
dkmich's picture

the SOB works to invade and sell the privacy rights of everyone else.

6 users have voted.

"Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich."--Napoleon

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I knew it was bad, but.....I guess this is an example of the invisible hand of the market, having written "screw you" in all caps, moves on.

6 users have voted.