Economic Development Subsidies

Mike Dwyer

Mike Dwyer is a former writer and contributor at Ordinary Times.

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37 Responses

  1. Kimmi says:

    Gollee, that does sound good! (What is it about Minnesota and good ideas?)Report

  2. “All businesses receiving more than $75,000 in loans….” I assume that refers to government loans?

    The idea seems good on the surface, although I’m concerned about how it might work in practice. I also like your idea of local government having some equity in the new ventures, but again, I’m concerned about how it might work in practice.

    My concerns are admittedly inchoate. There might be a danger here of the new, subsidized ventures capturing government. And I wonder if, when the punitive provisions need to be invoked, the legislature might just enact special legislation to exempt the venture. I really don’t know, however, and the ideas seem interesting.Report

  3. greginak says:

    I’m highly skeptical of subsidies to get a company to move to a certain state. Those are usually based on undercutting workers in another state and just lead to a race to crappy working conditions for all. There are also plenty of good arguments for having fewer subsidies for business in general. And lordy having the people buy stadiums so very rich people won’t move their sports teams is a rip off and losing proposition. I think the Minn proposal and Mike’s idea are good. I also know exactly how Mike’s proposal would be slammed and why it would have great trouble getting through. It would rhyme with bocialism.Report

    • Kimmi in reply to greginak says:

      we have a subsidy for movies here… we’re getting some actual tech jobs that’ll make sure that everything they can do in hollywood they can do here. plus the ETC is teaming up with one of the big hollywood studios. Within an year or two, we’ll be better for post-production than NYC.

      Are you also skeptical of non-profits? 😉 They get a BIG freaking subsidy…Report

      • greginak in reply to Kimmi says:

        Non-profits are set up that way to serve a public/charitable purpose. They get a break to make it possible to do some sort of good work that wouldn’t happen other wise. Having worked in non-profits I’d always joke about non-profit means none of the employees is ever going to make much money.Report

        • Kimmi in reply to greginak says:

          the nonprofit I work for pays multiple people million dollar salaries.
          About the only good I can say about them is that they keep lotta jobs in the city so they don’t lose their nonprofit status.Report

    • Mike Dwyer in reply to greginak says:

      “Those are usually based on undercutting workers in another state and just lead to a race to crappy working conditions for all. “

      Greginak – I think you are on to something but I don’t see another model that would work. Competition is generally a good thing except when it becomes a battle of subsidies. That seems a little unfair.Report

      • greginak in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        I’m fine with competition but “a battle of subsidies” is exactly what happens. Whether its no taxes or direct payments that is often how states get business from other states. Its not the best example but sports team owners have raised the threat of moving to get localities to pay for new stadiums. I’m not really suggesting another model. I think it would be best if places competed with each other based on having well educated workers, great infrastructure, being nice places to live, best beer, hottest men/women, etc. However we can’t legislate how people compete and its easier to offer freebies than other things. Here is Ak, the big oil companies always raise the specter of going to drill for oil someplace else unless the gov lowers their taxes or offers some benefit.Report

        • Mike Dwyer in reply to greginak says:

          I guess one could argue that the previous successes of the states allow them to have more money to subsidize the next business. Or they just subsidize as a kind of gamble (which often doesn’t pay off).Report

  4. Will Truman says:

    Hmmm. I know that at least one other place did something like this. I remember reading an article about how they had to return a lot of the money because they didn’t hire enough people. I’d actually thought that the existence of such things were standard, though actual enforcement varies.

    Of course, these policies are generally deadweight loss anyway, aren’t they? I mean, advantageous to the city or state, but primarily in a zero-sum way. Unless they’re going from Washington to South Carolina instead of Washington to India or something.Report

    • Plinko in reply to Will Truman says:

      Yes, totally. It’s exactly those kind of concerns that led me to convert to believing the best thing would be to reduce or eliminate taxation of business/personal income and developed property to the greatest possible extent in favor of taxes on consumption and land.Report

  5. DensityDuck says:

    Make sure you include Ben & Jerry’s in your analysis.Report

  6. MikeSchilling says:

    A very common form of subsidy is forgoing property taxes for some period of time. I’d consider the lost tax revenue as a subsidy and place it under the same rules.Report

    • DensityDuck in reply to MikeSchilling says:

      Don’t forget to include water and sewer service, police and fire protection, road maintenance, libraries, schools, and “other government services” in your list of subsidies.Report

      • Patrick Cahalan in reply to DensityDuck says:

        Those things can provide a baseline without being considered a subsidy.

        Once they require capital outlays to provide, they’re a subsidy.

        If you provide standard water and sewage service to a restaurant, that’s not significantly different than the water and sewage service provisioning you’d supply to any building in that zone. On the other hand, providing waste removal and water provisioning services for a skyscraper are a whole ‘nuther kettle of fish.Report

    • Plinko in reply to MikeSchilling says:

      Back in WI the typical thing was the TIF (tax-incremental financing) where the city floats or guarantees a loan for parcel development. The increased property tax revenue (caused by the higher taxable value of the parcel once (re-)development is complete) is diverted to pay the loans or bonds off for a fixed period, after that, the taxes just flow to general funds. It’s not quite the same kind of subsidy but they were definitely subject to rampant abuse/overuse.

      My understanding is in other states, a lot of subsidies for development take a similar path but often vary in the details.Report

  7. DensityDuck says:

    If a bar has a No Cover For Girls Night, it’s not because it thinks having lots of chicks around is awesome. It’s because they want the men to show up and buy the girls drinks. However, if they don’t sell as many drinks as they hoped, they do not retroactively charge the girls a fee for having entered the club.Report

    • Jesse Ewiak in reply to DensityDuck says:

      But, if it consistently happened, the bar would stop No Cover for Girls Night, instead of claiming the problem was that the men are too lazy and that the women are “drink creators.”Report

      • DensityDuck in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

        That isn’t what Minnesota’s Subsidy Accountability Law is proposing, though, when it says things like “[b]usinesses that fail to meet job creation and wage goals must repay the subsidy with interest and face other financial penalties, and be barred from receiving future subsidies in the state[.]”Report

        • Mike Dwyer in reply to DensityDuck says:

          I think building in penalties for certain things is okay. Business contracts do this all of time. The question is whether or not the lack of success was a result of uncontrollable forces or because the company didn’t live up to its promises. I could see this being an interesting sub-category of business law.Report

  8. Kimmi says:

    or have the girls buy the guys drinks.Report

  9. clawback says:

    Principled libertarianism would correctly tell us the answer is easy: governments should not have the authority to hand out economic development subsidies to businesses. That this post has been up all day and this fact is only now being pointed out by a liberal should tell you something about the prevalence of principle among libertarians.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to clawback says:

      How come you were the only liberal to do so, though? What does this suspicious silence on the behalf of all of the other liberals mean?Report

    • Kolohe in reply to clawback says:

      If you want an unprincipled libertarian to tell you that governments should not have the authority to hand out economic development subsidies to business, I can be your huckleberry. But being against corporate and business subsidies, against subsidies for pro sports stadiums, and all similar associated stuff like Kelo (and Atlantic Yards) is only the main thing libertarian think tanks like Cato, reason, and IJ have been working on for the past dozen or more years.Report

      • MikeSchilling in reply to Kolohe says:

        It’s why all of them raised such an outcry when a man whose personal fortune came from exactly that sort of subsidy was elected president.Report

      • clawback in reply to Kolohe says:

        Yes. Very nearly the only arguments you’ll see against corporate welfare are written by those who have to be paid to write them. Window dressing is easily purchased.Report

    • Kolohe in reply to clawback says:

      And none of the rules mentioned in Mr. Dwyer’s post prohibited businesses that received subsidies from discriminating based on sexual orientation. Why do you hate gay people, clawback?Report

    • Brandon Berg in reply to clawback says:

      I really don’t have the linguistic skills needed to express the full depth of my contempt for this kind of bullshit.Report

    • James K in reply to clawback says:

      We don’t all check every post thoroughly. Frankly I thought the point was too obvious to mention.Report

    • Plinko in reply to clawback says:

      I am not sure if any if any of the conversation up until this point included many/any libertarians, are you suggesting we can’t discuss a topic without reviewing what we think people who hold a different political viewpoint would say?Report

      • clawback in reply to Plinko says:

        No, I just thought it striking that on a site with many libertarians a post about how to structure huge government subsidies for private entities elicited the sound of crickets. I’m pretty sure a similar post about how to structure huge government subsidies for the disadvantaged would draw more comments to the effect the subsidies shouldn’t exist at all. Yeah, I know it’s just one data point; of course it’s possible everyone just happened to be really really busy.Report