State and local governments waste billions of dollars annually on economic development subsidies given to companies for moving existing jobs from one state to another rather than focusing on creating truly new positions, according to a study released today by Good Jobs First, a non-profit, non-partisan research center based in Washington, DC.
“What was long ago dubbed a Second War Between the States is, unfortunately, raging again in many parts of the country,” said Greg LeRoy , executive director of Good Jobs First and principal author of the report.
“The result is a vast waste of taxpayer funds, paying for the geographic reshuffling of existing jobs. By pretending that these jobs are new, public officials and the recipient companies engage in what amounts to interstate job fraud.”
Interstate job piracy is not a fruitful strategy for economic growth, LeRoy noted: “The costs are high and the benefits low, given that a tiny number of companies get huge subsidies for moving a small number of jobs.” LeRoy added: “Moreover, the availability of relocation subsidies allows companies that have no intention of moving to extract payoffs to stay put.”
Interstate relocations have microscopic job effects
Summarizing studies demonstrating that interstate relocations have microscopic job effects, the report also reviews the history of economic competition among the states and presents eight case studies of those areas where job piracy is most pronounced.
The case studies cover metropolitan areas such as Kansas City, Charlotte, New York and Memphis, where companies get subsidized to move short distances across state borders; states such as Texas, Tennessee, Georgia, New Jersey and Rhode Island that are aggressive users of relocation subsidies; and states such as Illinois and Ohio, which have given big retention or “job blackmail” packages.
The report recommends that states stop subsidizing companies for relocating jobs from other states, noting that four-fifths of the states already refuse to pay for intrastate job relocations.
The report also recommends that states end their business recruitment activities that are explicitly designed to pirate existing jobs from other states. It also suggests a modest role for the federal government: reserving a small portion of its economic development aid for those states that amend their incentive codes to make existing jobs ineligible for subsidies.
The report, entitled The Job-Creation Shell Game, is available at www.goodjobsfirst.org/shellgame.
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