The re-redistrictng Power Grab isn't the only mischief being cooked up by the Republicans in my home state of Georgia. Interestingly enough, there's a big fight underway over GOP-sponsored legislation that would shield public incentives for corporate relocations from public scrutiny.
If this sounds obscure and parochial to you, think again. One of the most destructive habits in state economic development strategies is the chronic battle between states to attract business investment by giving away the store in the form of tax rebates, free property, exemptions from regulations, and other corporate subsidies that create hidden, long-term costs in exchange for tangible, short-term announcements of new jobs and investment. And in turn, this is the basic approach to economic development--a race to the bottom in which all public priorities are sacrificed to the goal of lavishing money and power on "job creaters"--that Bush-era Republicans have made our national strategy for growth.
The rationale for the Georgia legislation, of course, is that it's designed to keep smokestack chasers from rival states from identifying and sweetening the deal being offered to fidgety corporate leaders. But it obviously makes it a lot easier for state wheeler-dealers to keep those taxpayers who are underwriting the deals from finding out about the price tag, or in some cases, the less tangible cost of new development in terms of environmental resources, traffic, housing, schools and the overall quality of life.
The GOP bill has already passed the Georgia House, but is in trouble in the Senate, where all 22 Democrats are opposed, and some Republicans, especially from high-growth areas, as getting jumpy. They should be jumpy, and Democrats should hang tough.
Compared to some states, Georgia has been relatively reluctant over the years to trade away its resources and revenues in corporate subsidies. In fact, as it happens, I once wrote a speech for a Georgia Governor who said Georgians should stop thinking of development as something that was delivered to them "on the wings of a pinstriped angel from Atlanta with a prospect in his hip pocket," and should instead focus on building growth from within, through better education, a skilled workforce, a strong quality of life, and a good atmosphere for home-grown business startups.
That healthy tradition is under attack in Georgia right now, in many other states, and in Washington, and it's good to see Democrats fighting back.