Government Give Aways–Impossible Dream

However well intended, we have a serious problem with fee deferrals, job training credits, landing fee waivers, and all other forms of “corporate welfare.”

With promises of “stimulate the economy” along with “job creation” businesses are scamming local, state, and federal government agencies.

The GUARDIAN recently filed a public records request with the airport to learn how much the “enterprise fund” (that means run on fees rather than general fund taxes) has discounted, waived, or offered as credits to airlines, rental companies, etc.

We also asked for a summary of overdue invoices to airlines and all other users. And finally, write offs or waivers during the past two years.

Boise’s legal department informed the GUARDIAN no summaries exist and the law doesn’t require them to maintain records in such a format. Further, there is no requirement for them to create a new record. One would think a couple of keystrokes on a computer would reveal the information requested.

We don’t know of many businesses that cannot tell the amount of past due funds they have in an ACCOUNTS RECEIVABLE file. The simplest Quicken program would yield that info, but we were dealing with local government, not a small business.

They did confess to waiving $45,449 in landing fees for Allegiant Airlines to help them out with Las Vegas and Honolulu service. BOI also wrote off $24,074 on bad debt to American Eagle’s bankruptcy.

The airport issue pales in comparison to the potent sour note unveiled at the new Chobani
plant in Twin Falls by IDAHO REPORTER. Seems the new yogurt company gets state job creation subsidies and they are in the midst of laying off workers at the same time…a whole new culture!

Bottom line: government payments or fee waivers seldom really work out. Some examples include Micron tax concessions, Albertson incentives, Boise Valley Economic Partnership multi million plans to recruit high paying jobs, spending $150,000 in United Airlines magazine, giving away $10,000 to the Troy whatever ballet for a few hours billing on a NY theater marquee. All aimed at creating jobs and business. There seems to be no end to the Impossible Dream.

Comments & Discussion

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  1. Dave, what is this rant relating to specifically? Any reader of your website can easily conclude your opposition to any tax incentives for businesses, but this Mose recent diatribe is informative of nothing. The real bottom line: while not every idea or program is as successful as the GUARDIAN would like, that doesn’t mean it’s as much as a failure as the GUARDIAN would have its readers believe – especially in the long term.

    Government is much more complex than a simple logical formula (if x, then y). Things like tax credits, fee waivers, and investments may result in losses in the short term (maybe in the long term too), but often these programs pan out in long run or in ways not quantifiable in terms so easily dispensed with by the GUARDIAN.

    For example, suppose Boise didn’t have a greenbelt and team Dave initiated one such program and buit one. I have no doubt that the GUARDIAN would oppose such a program and once completed chalk it up as wasted money because it’s contobution is difficult to quantify (much like the cities walkable city programs).

    Investments by government can’t be judged on the same scale you’re espousing becausing government programs are long term investments in things that are often unquantifiable like happiness and access and quality of life.

    Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, the GUARDIAN too often ignores that Boise is in Idaho, which provides a serious deferent to good jobs and a quality workforce.

    I like the Guardian and am a frequent reader, but Dave, as if the last couple of years your slant on the news is becoming too much slant and not enough news. Maybe it’s time to pass the touch?

    EDITOR NOTE–We have commented on RECENT REPORTS from the Statesman and others like Idaho Reporter. NONE of the issues were generated by the GUARDIAN. We felt the Statesman left a void with regard to the airport fee story and attempted to get the info. Today the response was essentially a refusal to tell citizens how much is past due at the airport. Also, the Chobani report is fresh today from Idaho Reporter. Your greenbelt example rings hollow. “Community investment” is a worthy goal. Offering corporate welfare is a loosing proposition.

  2. We will suffer the wrath of voter apathy.

  3. Boise Biker: you wrote: “… chalk it up as wasted money because it’s contobution is difficult to quantify (much like the cities walkable city programs)…”

    I’d like to address that single thought. While I agree that public works amenities are hard to quantify the value of, the Greenbelt was a parks program, walkable cities is not. It’s an ideology. Somewhat like what you accuse BG of doing, you’re obfuscating your true aim— the anti suburban agenda. If the city is going to pay for Jeff Speck to come speak then they should also pay for Robert Bruegmann to come here. Why not? What is the City of Boise scared of? The holes in Speck’s arguments are big enough to drive Big Mike through.

    Speaking of which, what was the unquantifiable value of that whole Big Mike project?

    Anyway, back to “walkable cities,” anti-sprawlism is the new form of bigotry. Suburban dwellers are destroying the country, no, the world and we need laws to protect us righteous people from suburbanites. Does this sound familiar? 1930s Germany accused the Jews of destroying their country.

    To remain somewhat on topic, BoiseGuardian; did you also do a FOIA request on what the city spent on Jeff Speck and the walkable cities study?

  4. Eaglewriter
    Jun 13, 2014, 9:21 am

    I suspect one man’s “corporate welfare” is another man’s “community investment.”

    Certainly one position is to say NO to all of it, but in current times that truly is a no growth position. Notwithstanding that all situations are different, and all are complex, it might make sense to set a standard business investment incentive index that is easily awarded and easily understood by the voters.

    A hypothetical might be a 50% (state) tax waiver the first year of operation, 25% year two, and 10% year three. This to attract a job creating business and assist them with getting on their feet. It is still a net gain of tax monies we would not otherwise have had, and of course the employment helps too.

    One rub of course is the intersection of local and state politics and the authority to make such deals. But a standard “template” for such investment could be built and it would certainly improve transparency.

  5. Boise Biker, you are making an opinion that is the role of government to provide “happiness and access and quality of life”. Others would opine that is not the role of limited government.

  6. In support of Dave’s point, from 2012:

    “…A Times investigation has examined and tallied thousands of local incentives granted nationwide and has found that states, counties and cities are giving up more than $80 billion each year to companies. The beneficiaries come from virtually every corner of the corporate world, encompassing oil and coal conglomerates, technology and entertainment companies, banks and big-box retail chains.

    “The cost of the awards is certainly far higher. A full accounting, The Times discovered, is not possible because the incentives are granted by thousands of government agencies and officials, and many do not know the value of all their awards. Nor do they know if the money was worth it because they rarely track how many jobs are created. Even where officials do track incentives, they acknowledge that it is impossible to know whether the jobs would have been created without the aid…”

  7. We elect those that engage in these kinds of actions. Until they are voted out of office they will behave the same way. They feel there is no jeopardy in doing what they do mainly because they feel the minority that support them are more “active” than the majority that do not.

  8. Voter,

    Has it ever occurred to you that it is you that is in the minority?

  9. Biker – – facts are given the percentage of voters who voted for those elected they are in fact elected by a super minority.

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