It’s easy being green in Greene, County, Pennsylvania. Just follow Wal-Mart’s lead. State officials across the nation are always complaining that money is tight, and that many needed projects to serve the public cannot be funded due to difficult financial times. The state of Pennsylvania, however, seems to have no such financial limits, and is even in a position to dole out large cash benefits to the likes of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. This week, the Herald Standard newspaper reports that officials in Greene County, Pennsylvania received a check for $5 million from Keystone State Governor Ed Rendell. The state funds are to be used to help build a retail development called Waynesburg Crossing, which features a Wal-Mart supercenter as its anchor. The subsidy for Wal-Mart was announced during a recent press conference between Governor Rendell, the Greene County Commissioners and Greene County Industrial Development Authority. County officials say that Wal-Mart planned to have the Waynesburg store open by Christmas 2007, but the company is being “overly cautious,” and has delayed the opening until the spring of 2008. The $5 million welfare payment to Wal-Mart came from the state Department of Community and Economic Development’s Infrastructure and Facilities Improvement Program. The Governor said the $5 million would be key to providing assistance for economic development and helping retain and create jobs in Greene County. According to Rendell’s office, the $5 million will be paid out in increments of $500,000 over the span of a 10-year period. The $500,000 in funding presented at the press conference represents the first-year allocation of the grant. The funding will be used to cover debt service on costs related to the construction of the retail development complex, which will be built on 115 acres of land across from the Greene County Airport. Funds will also be used for road construction, utility excavation and preparation, gas line preparation and waterline relocation, as well as sanitary line relocation and installation. The Governor’s office said the total retail project will be more than $35 million, and will create 1,095 jobs. “By providing the necessary grants for infrastructure improvements, environmental remediation and building costs, we are supporting economic development projects that bring new jobs and revenue to the commonwealth while helping lay the groundwork for our future economic success,” Rendell said. “Our investments in projects like these ensure Pennsylvania retains its business base and enhances our competitive edge to attract employers who are looking to locate, grow or expand here.” Waynesburg Crossings is being built by McHolme/Waynesburg LLC, which bought the site from the county in 2003. The site will include a 155,000 s.f. Wal-Mart Supercenter on 44 acres that was purchased by Wal-Mart. Construction can start as soon as the supervisors in Franklin Township give the project a building permit. The retail project includes the construction of Murtha Drive, named after U.S. Congressman John P. Murtha, which will run from Route 21, and will cost nearly $7 million in state and federal funds.
Every American is implicated in this enormous piece of corporate welfare for the largest retailer in the world. Last year Wal-Mart made more than $11 billion in net profits, yet it could not complete this supercenter deal without $12 million in tax breaks for roadwork and site infrastructure. Other businesses in the Waynesboro area are perhaps wondering why Wal-Mart got a huge tax-supported subsidy (that the competitor businesses helped pay for), and a nice deal on public land, while they did not. But perhaps its because Governer Ed Rendell does not realize that other businesses will lose jobs when this store opens, and that the wages and benefits that come with these jobs ensures low-income employees will be asking for state-funded health insurance for years to come. When Governor Rendell was first elected, the commonwealth of Pennsylvania faced a projected budget deficit of $2.4 billion. “As one of his first acts,” his website says, “Governor Rendell cut government spending to close that deficit and implemented programs and policies to apply business principles of productivity and cost-savings to the operation of state government. By the end of 2006, through developing new business practices and focusing on innovation and efficiency throughout the government, the cost of government has been cut by $1 billion.” Despite all this cutting of government services, Governor Rendell somehow found $7 million to give Wal-Mart, and Greene County found another $5 million in green. Readers should call Governor Rendell at (717) 787-2500 with this message: “How can you boast of cutting state government cost while giving $7 million in taxpayer’s money away to Wal-Mart? I guess we know what “free” market really means in Pennsylvania. We understand now why they call it “Greene” county. End the corporate welfare for Wal-Mart, which will bring you no added value economically, except a handful of low-wage jobs without health care benefits.” The Governor can be emailed at: http://sites.state.pa.us/PA_Exec/Governor/govmail.html