States are wasting billions of dollars to attract business by offering them incentives that actually have little or no effect on where those businesses untimately locate, according to a new report by Ralph Nader's Public Interest Research Group.
The report shows that the tax breaks and subsidies offered by the 50 states are so similar that corporate officers admid openly that those issues are not even considered when their companies plan moves.
States and localities are increasingly offering more attractive financial lures to corporations, Nader said in a press conference at which he released the report yesterday, and they frequently even compete with neighboring states.
But, he said, the money is going predominantly to the nation's largest corporations -- who, he said, need the handouts the least.
"well over half of the $18 billion in industrial development and pollution control bonds (tax-free bonds that can be issued by the benefited corporation) issued during the 1960s and 1970s was issued to a few giant corporations, those with over 5,000 employes and gross sales in excess of $1 billion," said report author Jerry Jacobs, who was with Nader at the press conference.
"states are bidding against each other for the right to enrich these big businesses," Nader said. "It's a war of all against all and nobody wins except the companies."
Although some states were innovative in first offering the incentives, he said, "They have all come up to speed and are offering essentially the same thing now."
The report noted that the U.S. Treasury will lose $21.1 billion over the next dacede in taxes because the companies involved are being allowed to issue tax-free bonds.
The tax incentives offered "serve to make the rich richer and the poor poorer," Nader said. "rich taxpayers (who can buy the tax-free bonds, which are usually sold in large denominations) and big corporations get reduced taxes. The difference is made up by the little guy, the small taxpayer and homeowner who has to pay higher taxes to make up for the taxes not paid by the plant across the meadows."
Jacobs said the corporate executives he interviewed said they all "decide first where they want their plant to be, and then look for the subsidies they can get," thus defeating the purpose of offering incentives.
Robert Gulian, financial officer for Union Carbide Corp., when asked if pollution control bonds had enabled his company to initiate any projects, is quoted in the report as saying, "No.I can say very positively that has not been the case. We always indentify the project first and then go to the municipality."
Still, he noted, Union Carbide has never been turned down in a request for a tax-free pollution control bond.