New day, same despicable tax incentive packages for those who need it least.
Earlier this week, the North Carolina General Assembly passed S.B. 820, a bill that increased the cap on tax incentives per job for companies moving into the state from $6,500 to up to $16,000. To make the point extremely clear, S.B. 820 was drafted not to help rural towns secure desperately needed well-paying jobs or anything else that could otherwise be categorized as Good. S.B. 820 was drafted and approved to bring in executive jobs for big tech companies looking to move their headquarters to somewhere with cheap labor and a low corporate tax rate.
So it shouldn’t have surprised anyone in North Carolina when Honeywell, a massive Fortune 100 manufacturing company that apparently brands itself as a tech operation, announced on Friday morning that it would be moving its headquarters and 150 executive jobs to Charlotte. To most conservatives and moderates—the majority of the North Carolina government leadership—this was great news. Hell, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper not only was there to roll out the red carpet and buff the shoes of Honeywell’s CEO, he also blasted the news out as if he’d just secured the deal of the century:
The only people the announcement shocked were the folks in New Jersey, which gave Honeywell a $40 million tax break in 2013. In taking that incentive, the company promised to stay in the Garden State for 15 years. Just five years later, they’re heading south, to what the company recognizes as an obviously better deal. And why shouldn’t they? If North Carolina’s politicians are going to forsake their public education system and the health of its citizens so as to hand out millions to Big Business, even a business that just reneged on its last tax break deal, why the hell would a soulless company not take that deal?
The anger here shouldn’t be directed at Honeywell or any of the other companies that have decided to take the free money North Carolina’s handed out, but at the asshole Republicans who dreamt up these deals and the unbearable Democrats that held corporations’ hands to usher them in. (In the Senate, S.B. 820 was approved by a vote of 43-0, with all but one of the chamber’s 15 Democrats—who was absent—supporting the measure. It passed the House by a vote of 78-23, with 39 of the 45 House Democrats supporting the bill.)
The state also has the conservative ghouls that have controlled the state legislature for the past eight years to thank, along with the moderate business-humping Dems that have dominated the governor’s mansion since the 1950s. After securing their supermajority in 2010, the GOP-controlled state legislature set the state corporate tax rate at three percent, the lowest in the entire nation—in 2019, that rate will drop to 2.5 percent—and during the recent 2018 midterm election, North Carolina voters made the short-sighted decision to cap the state income tax at 7.0 percent. S.B. 820 was merely a continuation of this trend.
It’s in situations like these that strange bedfellows are made—take, for instance, Rep. Jonathan Jordan of High County, a conservative Republican, who found himself standing on the House floor on Thursday, vocally agreeing with democratic socialist and incoming U.S. House Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who said monolithic industrial companies like Amazon and Honeywell don’t deserve a dime of taxpayer money.
Jordan is completely right here—tax incentive programs for small and rural communities are floundering compared to those designed for “the big guys.” What S.B. 820 and these tax breaks effectively mean is that North Carolina conservatives and business-friendly Democrats have bent over backwards to allow Big Business, like Amazon and its “Development Centers” (low-wage shipment and storage factories), to enter the state and operate while incurring only minimal costs by way of taxes or paying the working-class citizens that they employee a fair wage. Rather than ask a business that’s bringing in executives with an average salary of $348,000 to pay a reasonable tax, they would instead prefer to slash taxes while continuing to defund crucial public service programs.
Honeywell’s big payday is nothing more than an HQ2 redux, an opportunity for a state and its politicians to show just how committed they are to promoting and maintaining an idiotic Best-in-Business ranking from Forbes, a ranking that is based on all the above tax cuts, not the stagnant wages and depreciating life conditions of working-class residents. As was the case when they tried to throw $2.2 billion at Amazon, all it really comes down to for the politicians making these decision is simple, really. They could give a fuck about what setting this precedent will mean in the future, or what their return on investment will be when Honeywell or any other business decides to pack up and leave down. At the end of the day, all that matters—to the N.C. GOP, to Roy Cooper, to anyone in the state Senate—is that they get to smash the send button on their JOBS ALERT tweet.