Monday, August 02, 2004

More on that Texas Wal-Mart deal

By way of Susan Ohanian who snagged a copy of the op-ed, we finally get more insight to that Texas Wal-mart deal.

Back tracking, the state of Texas is helping Wal-Mart build a huge distribution center in Baytown, using state trust fund money. I'm not an expert in this field but I sure as heck was suspicious of this deal. Too much secrecy and strange back-forth buying and selling of land equals stink.

Thank goodness for Loren Steffy, who sheds a bit of light on the subject. Here's a bit on why:
Since 1987, Texas school districts have had the right to veto any tax breaks in their jurisdictions. That way we don't mortgage our children's future on the political whims of the present.

Goose Creek's school board never voted on the plan, according to press reports. After all, it wasn't a tax break, per se, so no board vote was required. My call to the superintendent's office wasn't returned by press time.

Economic development is a difficult game. Landing the Wal-Mart facility is a coup for Baytown, not just because of the jobs that are promised but because it will pave the way for related businesses.
This deal undermines local control over tax breaks. Apparently, Texas school districts used to be able to veto any tax breaks in their district. No more, at least if you do deals this way.

As eRobin at Fact-esque suggested earlier, this might be all about where the tax money is going. It turns out Wal-Mart gets out of paying an estimated $41 to $55 million dollars to the local school district over a 30 to 40 year period. Ouch. That's a huge chunk of change for a school district.

Steffy points out an even larger problem that comes with this deal, that of future expectations.
The tax break game continues to get uglier. Companies such as Wal-Mart now expect to be wooed with big dowries. Simply waiving city and county taxes is no longer good enough.

State and local officials have come to view tax breaks and "incentives" as a necessary evil. If we don't offer them, some other city will, and they'll get the jobs, the reasoning goes.

The irony is that good schools top the list of requirements for most employers scouting new locations because they are among the top concerns of their employees. Good schools also mean a more educated pool of potential future employees.

And that's something that Wal-Mart, and any other company in America, ought to be willing to pay for.
Funding for education was sold out in the interest of an estimated 300 jobs. No one reminded Wal-Mart that good schools is important if you want to attract good workers.

But my guess is since Wal-Mart is putting a ton of money into destroying public education, I suppose any reminders would be all for naught. Where is Captain Picard? We need help with the Borg.

Along those lines, from eRobin, here's a great all Wal-mart site: Wal-Mart Beat.