Lawmakers in Indiana have been burning the midnight oil trying to help the world’s richest retailer use state tax dollars to subsidize it’s operation. As strange as it seems, Indiana officials appear to be completely unaware that Wal-Mart, with more than $9 billion in profits in 2004, does not need public welfare to do anything — yet local officials are throwing pearls before swine thinking they are creating real economic development. Wal-Mart gets more public welfare than any other retailer in U.S. history. The Indiana legislation is working on several tax incentives intended to encourage economic growth across the state. The bill has already been passed by the House of Representatives. Senate Bill 1, as it is known, expands the eligibility area and extends the deadline for a tax abatement on new logistical and information technology equipment that was used to attract a Wal-Mart distribution center to Gas City, Indiana. The House passed Senate Bill 1 by 78 to 19 this week. Earlier this month, House Bill 1283, which had similar language, was not taken up because of a disruption in legislative business. The corporate welfare for Wal-Mart is part of a special deal for Wal-Mart to build a 895,000 s.f. distribution center in Gas City. State officials want to extend the deadline on the equipment abatement so Wal-Mart can pay less taxes to the state. Ironically, Gas City Mayor Larry Leach admitted that he didn’t need the tax breaks to consummate the deal with Wal-Mart. “It has no effect on the Wal-Mart deal. I’ve told everyone, we have got an 80-some page (memorandum of understanding) signed contract,” the Mayor said. “It seems so political to name it the ‘Wal-Mart tax abatement.’ Yes, Wal-Mart will benefit from it, but so will anything in the future.” Wal-Mart officials said they were committed to the project with or without the abatement.
What is the point of this corporate welfare? The retailer says they don’t need it, the Mayor says he didn’t need it. So how is this foolish giveaway in the public interest? A study last year, called “Shopping For Subsidies” documented that Wal-Mart had taken advantage of more than $1 billion in welfare payments at taxpayer’s expense to build their distribution centers. For more examples of communities that threw good money after Wal-Mart, and gave them tax breaks that smaller businesses would never qualify for, contact [email protected] and ask for the “Built on Welfare” report on Wal-Mart distribution centers. Corporate welfare is alive and well in Indiana.