” While corporate welfare, whether in the form of subsidies or bailouts, is more often associated with the federal government, state governments also regularly use generous, targeted subsidy packages to entice corporations to locate within their borders. As these charts show, corporate welfare is a significant problem at the state level, with New York State leading the rest.
This week’s charts use data from the Subsidy Tracker 2.0 dataset compiled by Good Jobs First, a government accountability and smart-growth advocacy group, to display the states (plus the District of Columbia) that disperse the highest amounts and numbers of subsidies, along with the top parent corporations that cumulatively benefit from these subsidies.
Comprehensive data on total state assistance to private businesses have long been hard to access, since the relevant information has been inconsistently scattered among various government reports and websites. The Subsidy Tracker project is an ambitious effort to compile state data on subsidized projects, amounts, beneficiaries, and outcomes in one location. The dataset distinguishes between 11 types of subsidies, including tax credits and rebates, property tax abatements, low-cost loans, infrastructure assistance, and enterprise zones. The dataset is a constantly updated work-in-progress; while it does not yet contain every single state subsidy, it is one of the most comprehensive sources of state subsidies assembled so far. Additionally, the database compilers decided to count sales tax exemptions on business purchases of inputs as a “subsidy.” However, some economists argue that applying sales taxes to input purchases would inefficiently favor vertically integrated firms over firms that purchase inputs from other businesses. Therefore, this kind of sales tax exemption is not a “subsidy,” but an efficient tax policy. Despite these important limitations, the dataset can give us an early glimpse of the rough value of the subsidies that each state issues. The User Guide provides further details on the methodology.
The first chart displays the states known to have extended cumulative subsidies exceeding $1 billion, according to the dataset. In the top portion, the states are ranked, left to right, from the highest amount of subsidies to the lowest amount of subsidies. In the bottom portion, the equivalent number of deals are displayed for each state.
New York state clearly leads the pack, extending a known 71,759 subsidy deals worth $21.71 billion. The second highest corporate beneficiary in the dataset, Alcoa, received a plum deal from the Empire State in 2007, raking in an astounding $5.6 billion to build an aluminum plant. “