How State and Local Government Subsidies Hurt Public Education

Thanks to Goldy over at The Stranger Slog for the alert to the three-part series at the NY Times about the $80B a year in subsidies states give to businesses.  From his piece:

The Times has also included a handy little interactive database that allows you to explore these incentive programs state by state. For example, Washington State taxpayers spend $2.35 billion a year on incentive programs. That's roughly 15 cents per state budget dollar, or $349 for every man, woman, and child in the state. Imagine how different our education funding debate might look if our state had an extra $2.35 billion a year to spend on schools?

As Hallmark CEO Donald J. Hall Jr., put it it about the budget-depleting subsidy border war between Kansas and Missouri: “If you’re looking at the competitiveness of a region, the most important thing a region can do is to focus on education. And this use of incentives is really transferring money from education to businesses.” (bold his)

It takes only a simple majority vote to grant a tax exemption or credit in Washington, but under current state law a two-thirds supermajority to repeal one, no matter how nonproductive. Not that we'd know if a subsidy was nonproductive. Every legislative effort to sunset exemptions or subject them to performance audits has been crushed in Olympia. So we're flying blind. And that's just plain stupid.


Charlie Mas said…
Awarding tax breaks is no different from spending.
KG said…
Gates and the Macrotheft corporation lead this abuse of school children here.
KG said…
Also not to mention the Bombing corporation.
Patrick said…
Charlie, awarding tax breaks is different in a couple of important ways:

State spending is budgeted and the budget is reported and examined closely every year or biennium. Tax breaks don't go into an regular report. (Maybe that would be a good appendix to the state budget.)

State spending cannot be a gift to one company or person. Tax breaks are often crafted to benefit just one deep pocketed company or individual.
Anonymous said…
Yeap, just take a look at Seattle's Incentive Zoning Policy or MFTE (multi-family tax exemption) program, SLU developers (and now Yesler Terrace) love this kind of stuff. Instead of "it's for the kids," "it's for low-income and affordable housing" slogan that developers love to throw in (plus LEED/green building) as they gleefully ka-ching all the way to the bank. The losers are the tax payers, the poorer, working folks, and fixed income (retired) folks who are paying nearly 1/2 or more of their income to live in this city (and are relegated to places where there is high crime, poor infrastructure/services, and poor neighborhoods that our city councils and mayor prefer to ignore except for photo-ops).

The Seattle Times has in the PAST writen about these things. The articles tend to be BURIED, but you can read them here:

No surprise the same SLU developers, council member, and mayor are pushing for a spanking new SLU school because "it's for the kids" of the "right kind of people," right?

Anonymous said…
I notice several companies in our state are enjoying the "B&O Tax Exemptions for Fruit and Vegetable Processors". Prominent fruit and vegetable companies like Immunex, Intel, Microsoft, and Children's Hospital. I'm sure there are things in this exemption that pertains directly (or generally) to what these businesses, do, but I love how something named for a specific use get tweaked for other purposes. A little truth in advertising here would be great. Maybe they all provide fruits and vegetables in their company cafeterias? Maybe I can get an exemption for serving them to our kids?

There is always enough money. It's just being used for the wrong things.

High Tech Fruit

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