News release from Tennesseans for Fair Taxation:
Washington, DC, June 19, 2013 — In recent years, state and local governments have been awarding giant economic development subsidy packages to corporations more frequently than ever before. The packages frequently reach nine and even ten figures, and the cost per job averages $456,000 and often exceeds $1 million. Tennessee is tied for fifth-most megadeals–with 11–and ranks eighth in total megadeal spending at $2.5 billion.
These are the findings of Megadeals, a report released today by Good Jobs First, a non-profit resource center based in Washington, DC. The report can be found online at www.goodjobsfirst.org/megadeals.
“These subsidy awards are getting out of control,” said Philip Mattera, research director of Good Jobs First and principal author of the report. “Huge packages that used to be reserved for ‘trophy’ projects creating large numbers of jobs are now being given away more routinely.”
Naomi Goodin of Tennesseans for Fair Taxation (TFT) noted, “Tennessee is fifth in the number of megadeals, yet tied for last in measures of personal income growth. This sounds like a ‘reverse Robin Hood’ mentality. We already penalize our middle and lower-income citizens with proportionally higher taxes. Let’s at least make sure their tax dollars will benefit the people.”
More from the Chattanooga TFP: The deal to lure Volkswagen to Chattanooga was the largest in Tennessee at $554 million in state and local subsidies, the report said.
Also, three Tennessee economic development projects involving Japanese automaker Nissan, including the relocation of its North American headquarters, were cited in the report, with total subsidies reaching $528 million, according to the study.
Kasia Tarczynska, a co-author of the report, said Tennessee offers expansive subsidy programs to companies. She cited the state’s tax credit programs related to jobs and training.
“Tennessee is very aggressive in this arena,” she said.
Tarczynska termed the headquarters relocation subsidies by the state “one of the more controversial,” saying it offers up to $50,000 per job for simply moving positions from one state to another, for example.
News release from Secretary of State’s Office:
Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett’s office has received inquiries about an official-looking notice from Corporate Records Service. It appears that these notices began arriving in mailboxes around January 22, 2013 and Tennesseans are continuing to receive them. Corporate Records Service is not registered, affiliated, or associated with the Tennessee Secretary of State.
The mailer is causing confusion for Tennessee corporations due to its appearance as an official document. Tennessee corporations are required to file annual reports with the Tennessee Secretary of State. Most corporations have also recently received annual report notices from the Secretary of State.
Corporate Records Services is requesting a $125 fee. The standard fee to file a corporation annual report in Tennessee is only $20.
“We can confirm that Corporate Records Service is not a business entity on file with our office,” Tennessee Secretary of State Tre Hargett said. “I strongly advise corporations to exercise caution before providing their private and confidential information or credit card information to this or any company that is representing itself in this manner.”
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court on Monday reaffirmed its 2-year-old decision allowing corporations to spend freely to influence elections. The justices struck down a Montana law limiting corporate campaign spending.
By a 5-4 vote, the court’s conservative justices said the decision in the Citizens United case in 2010 applies to state campaign finance laws and guarantees corporate and labor union interests the right to spend freely to advocate for or against candidates for state and local offices.
The majority turned away pleas from the court’s liberal justices to give a full hearing to the case because massive campaign spending since the January 2010 ruling has called into question some of its underpinnings.
The same five justices said in 2010 that corporations have a constitutional right to be heard in election campaigns. The decision paved the way for unlimited spending by corporations and labor unions in elections for Congress and the president, as long as the dollars are independent of the campaigns they are intended to help. The decision, grounded in the freedom of speech, appeared to apply equally to state contests.
But Montana aggressively defended its 1912 law against a challenge from corporations seeking to be free of spending limits, and the state Supreme Court sided with the state. The state court said a history of corruption showed the need for the limits, even as Justice Anthony Kennedy declared in his Citizens United opinion that independent expenditures by corporations “do not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.”
By Lucas Johnson, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Republicans have backed off — at least temporarily — of Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal to seal off information about companies seeking economic
development grants after an impassioned debate between supporters and Democratic Sen. Roy Herron, who demanded to know why ownership records would not be made available to the public.
The measure, carried by Republican Sen. Bo Watson of Hixson, was delayed Monday evening until Thursday. The companion bill is awaiting a vote in the House Commerce Committee.
Haslam has called for the public records changes as part of his plan to offer more cash incentives for companies to invest in Tennessee.
The bill closes off information regarding “business processes, organizational structure and ownership, financial statements, budgets, cash flow reports or similar materials.”
Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey has renewed his call for drug testing of people who receive government-related benefits and says it will be a priority in the current legislative session, reports Rick Locker. “We will have some legislation ready to go on that. I can’t tell you exactly what it’s going to be right now but it will deal with making sure that when people apply for unemployment compensation that they’re supposed to get it, and second of all, I still want to make sure that we’re drug testing practically everyone getting any kind of government benefits,” Ramsey said.
…Gov. Bill Haslam has said he’s not sold on the concept of drug testing recipients on state assistance, largely because he’s not sure of the costs and whether it’s legal under federal law. House Republican leaders have also stopped short of endorsing the idea.
But that didn’t deter Ramsey on Friday. And when questioned on the issue in light of the state’s shift in policy on economic development incentives — Haslam’s legislative package unveiled last week would add outright grants of taxpayer cash to the state’s existing arsenal of tax breaks, worker training and infrastructure assistance — Ramsey said he’d be “fine” with testing corporate executives, too.
“It’s fine with me. I mean I’ll have to check into that,” he said.
“I’m fine with that. I’m fine with legislators being drug tested. Because I know that we will be criticized if we target one segment of society like that. But you’re right, if they’re getting state money, federal money — oh I shouldn’t — I don’t know how you define who the executives are.” He said that’s something lawmakers would have to look into.
News release from Tennesseans for Fair Taxation:
Knoxville, Tennessee – A comprehensive new study that profiles 265 consistently profitable Fortune 500 companies finds that International Paper, with global headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee, paid -1% overall in state corporate income taxes in 2008-10. The company reported $1.6 billion in gross earnings in its 2010 Annual Report, with $25.3 billion in assets.
These are among the findings in “Corporate Tax Dodging in the Fifty States, 2008-2010” released today by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) and Citizens for Tax Justice (CTJ) in conjunction with Tennesseans for Fair Taxation. The report finds a total of 68 companies that paid no state corporate income tax in at least one of the last three years and 20 of them, including International Paper, averaged a tax rate of zero or less during the 2008-2010 period. The corporate income tax rate in Tennessee is 6 percent.
Tennessee-based companies Eastman Chemical, Community Health Systems, AutoZone, FedEx, and Dollar General were also named in the report for having corporate tax rates of less than 3% overall from 2008-10. By contrast, because of Tennessee’s reliance on the sales tax and tax on food, low-income Tennesseans pay almost 12% of their income in taxes. Tax avoidance practices by multi-state, multinational corporations also shift tax responsibilities onto locally owned and operated companies that manage to pay their taxes and create jobs for Tennesseans, and distort the way companies operate through the use of tax avoidance schemes.
The governor, mayors and Greater Memphis Chamber rolled out the red carpet Wednesday for about a dozen people who advise businesses where in the world to build or relocate, reports the Commercial Appeal. When all other factors among competing cities are about even, building relationships between local leaders and corporate decision-makers is crucial, said one of the visiting site-selection consultants, Robert M. Ady of the Chicago-based Ady International Company. “Here, it’s been demonstrated in spades, in my opinion,” he said of Memphis.
…Ady and his fellow travelers had just been treated to a lunch at The Peabody, given time with with FedEx chairman Frederick W. Smith, and greeted royally by Gov. Bill Haslam, Memphis Mayor A C Wharton and Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell.
After lunch, the Greater Memphis Chamber’s “2011 Red Carpet Tour” continued as the consultants boarded a bus. They were to see first-hand Memphis Bioworks, Frank C. Pidgeon Industrial Park and the CN/CSX intermodal facility, Smith & Nephew, and the Bartlett life science corridor.
More than a year in advance of the 2012 Tennessee general election, some corporations have begun filing the necessary paperwork to make direct contributions to state political candidates as authorized by a law enacted earlier this year by the Legislature.
Also, the Registry of Election Finance has issued a memo, posted on its website, in response to “numerous questions” about the law, which says that corporations wanting to make a donation of more than $250 must register as a political action committee and file reports on the contributions they make.
Companies donating that amount or less to individual candidates need not register, according to Drew Rawlins, executive director of the Registry.
There’s another, larger exemption from registration for corporations that only want to give money to other PACs, including those operated by legislative leaders and the Democratic and Republican parties.
The contribution limits that apply to PACs also apply to corporations in the case of donations to candidates. For state Senate candidates, for example, the limit is $10,700 per election or $21,400 for the primary and general election combined.
But, as the memo says, “The amount of contributions the corporation may make to a PAC(s) is unlimited.” In theory, then, a corporation could donate millions of dollars to the state Republican or Democratic party if it wished and the party could then spend the money making contributions to legislative candidates.
The candidate, PAC or party receiving the money would have to report taking the donations from corporations. Any such contributions since the law took effect, however, will not have to be reported until January of next year.
The handful of corporations registering so far include Daiichi Sankyo Inc., the U.S. affiliate of a Tokyo-based pharmaceutical company; gasoline-producer ConocoPhillips; California-based Allergen Inc., a health care company focused on pharmaceuticals; Comcast Corp., a cable TV company; and Swisher International, a Florida-based cigar producer.
A reporter’s inquiries to some of the companies last week were generally ignored. An exception was Joe Augustus, senior vice president of Swisher, who sent this email response:
“Swisher does not have state PACs so corporate contributions are our only way to support business-minded legislators who share our companies business philosophy in TN. This is not uncommon in other states where we do business.”
Comcast already has an active PAC in Tennessee. Curtis Person III, who represents the company as a lobbyist, said he could not speak for the company on why it would want both, but would relay the request for comment to corporate officials. There was no response from them.
The start of a Scott McNutt satire piece: Even if President Barack Obama and congressional leaders resolve the United States’ budget crisis, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam says he is prepared to act if the nation defaults on its debt in the future.
The governor’s idea? Corporate-sponsored secession.
“If the U.S. government defaults on its debt obligations, Tennessee is prepared to move quickly to sell itself to the highest corporate bidder,” Haslam explained. “We think we’d go for a pretty penny.”
Haslam added that the idea of seceding in case of U.S. debt default occurred to him because “there was already so much interest in secession,” referring to some of his rivals in last year’s governor’s race and some state legislators who floated the idea.
(Note: This is an unedited version of a column written for Sunday’s News Sentinel. Edited version HERE.)
Our staunchly conservative state legislators have decided to be liberal in at least one sense, that being allowing generosity in donation to political campaigns.
Indeed, a review of a National Conference of State Legislatures listing of campaign contribution limits in all 50 states – last updated in 2010 – it appears that not only did the our legislators vote in June to allow themselves to collect direct corporate contribution; they will allow companies to give them bigger contributions than any other state that imposes limits on campaign contributions.
A handful of states – Oregon, Utah and Missouri, for example – still have no limits whatsoever on what any entity can give to candidates for state office. Tennessee first adopted limits on campaign contributions in 1995, a legislative reaction to the state government corruption scandal of the day, known by the FBI code name “Rocky Top.”
Our new law, enacted as SB1915, got most attention for authorizing direct corporate contributions. But it also raised the limits on how much money can be donated to candidates, declaring the old 1995 limits should be adjusted for inflation, retroactively. The result was about a 40 percent increase in contribution limits.
(Registry of Election Finance chart with the new limits compared to old limits HERE.)
The new law also calls for automatic inflation increases in the future, giving Tennessee a head start at remaining at the head of the liberalized donation pack – or PACs – in the years ahead.