Haslam’s Astonishing Corporate Offer: Have a Skyscraper

Tower for SaleRather than building an economy from the bottom up and middle out, Bill Haslam has doubled down on risky mega-tax handouts that don’t always deliver the jobs they promise and too often favor big corporations instead of small business.

On Monday, we learned just how far Haslam’s administration is willing to go to please big corporations and CEOs.

In 2011, the Haslam administration packaged nearly $600 million worth of tax breaks and giveaways — including the 31-story Tennessee Tower! —  in an attempt to lure Sears to Nashville.

Watching Phil Williams’ report really leaves you wondering — with Haslam in charge, what part of our state isn’t for sale?

As soon as Haslam took office, his administration expanded Tennessee’s cash giveaways to big businesses even though The Nashville Business Journal reported that these programs gave more than $60 million to companies that never produced the jobs they promised.

Though the $100,000-per-job tax break never happened with Sears, another big corporation has benefited from a similar, secret arrangement.

Last year the Haslam administration approved a $30 million tax handout to Eastman Chemical, a Fortune 500 company and a big Haslam campaign contributor, for a project that might only add 300 jobs — that’s $100,000 per job.

In December 2012, The New York Times estimated that every Tennessee taxpayer chips in $249 a year — totaling at least $1.6 billion — to pay for state tax breaks and cash giveaways for big business.

The worst part of these giveaways is the absolute lack of accountability. In November, the state comptroller’s office issued a scathing report showing how little Haslam’s administration expects of the businesses lining up for a cut of our tax dollars.

We can’t make the critical investments our state needs to strengthen the middle class if we’re wasting our tax dollars on handouts that aren’t creating good-paying jobs.

To be fair, Haslam does believe in accountability for some Tennesseans — just not his administration or his business pals. In 2012, Haslam signed a law requiring drug testing for welfare recipients. So there’s that.

Brandon Puttbrese is a public relations specialist and former communications director at the Tennessee Democratic Party. Find him on Twitter and Facebook.com




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