Nashville Gets More Transparent About Corporate Tax Breaks

No details, no incentives.

(Photo by Kaldari)

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A new ordinance, called the “Do Better” bill by supporters, will require that companies hoping to receive incentives from the city of Nashville disclose details like how many county residents they’ll hire, the wages they’ll pay and whether they’ve had any safety violations in the past. The bill was passed by the Nashville Metro Council Tuesday, despite pushback from the local Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce, the Tennessean reports.

The bill’s passage comes on the heels of a Nashville Scene article examining the city’s bid for Amazon HQ2. Cities have made some wild and ethically questionable promises to the retail giant — Fresno, California, for example, has offered to funnel taxes generated by Amazon into a fund overseen partially by the company. The Nashville paper was unable to report much about the bid itself, however, despite public records requests, because it was overseen by the Chamber of Commerce, which declined to share the proposal.

“But it’s not just the public who can’t see the bid: Members of the Metro Council, who would have to approve an incentive package for Amazon, tell the Scene they haven’t seen it either,” the paper reported in December.

“I would be very curious to see what we are giving away,” District 31 Councilmember Fabian Bedne, who supported the ordinance voted in on Tuesday, told the paper. “We never learn about these things until it’s too late.”

The bill was backed by a coalition of labor and community groups. In December, co-chair of Stand Up Nashville Odessa Kelly wrote an op-ed in the the Tennessean explaining their support. She wrote:

The “Do Better” Bill gives Metro Council an effective tool to determine whether the common good is served by the incentive under consideration, as well as a way to suspend or end an incentive agreement if the company fails to hold up its side of the bargain. In other words, it would help Metro Council make better business decisions on behalf of all of its constituents, not just big corporations.

According to the paper, the Chamber’s opposition to the bill was largely centered on companies needing to reveal safety and wage practices and information about contractors. The bill’s final version stated that businesses will have to disclose wage-regulated lawsuits against themselves and their contractors. But the chamber has reportedly said that companies should be compelled to report past fines, rather than violations, because it believes fines to be a better indication of fault.

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Rachel Dovey is an award-winning freelance writer and former USC Annenberg fellow living at the northern tip of California’s Bay Area. She writes about infrastructure, water and climate change and has been published by Bust, Wired, Paste, SF Weekly, the East Bay Express and the North Bay Bohemian

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Tags: corporate welfarenashville

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