Corporate Welfare Defense: ‘We Could Have Taken More’
Burns & McDonnell, a successful top-20 engineering firm based in Kansas City, is poor. So poor, that in order to build on a site adjacent to its headquarters, the company has to come groveling to the City Council for what amounts to corporate welfare. We had the opportunity to speak to KSHB on this matter as a council committee was considering the request.
Under the best circumstances, Burns & Mac officials claim they will create up to 2,000 jobs for only $40,000,000 in public taxpayer money. That is a cost of $20,000 for each job. That’s not bad by government standards; a study in Saint Louis found that Tax Increment Financing (TIF) created retail jobs at a cost of $370,000 each. Let”s hope the TIF is as successful as Burns & Mac claims, but experience suggests otherwise.
Soon we will write up an analysis of what Burns & Mac is asking for, and it isn’t as small a subsidy as they would like you to believe.
While the Show-Me Institute understands that businesses must seek the best deal they can, including public assistance if offered, we fault municipalities for being too eager to give away the shop. Burns & Mac is well connected. CEO Greg Graves is a former president of the Chamber of Commerce. Kansas City Mayor Sly James said the city was going to help the project months before Burns & Mac (publicly) asked for help. Those are the benefits of being a political crony.
But what’s worse about this whole ordeal is not Burns & Mac’s shameless rent-seeking, or promoting a public policy that has been proven unsuccessful, or that the earnings tax — which Graves said he is proud to pay — is being diverted to political cronies. No, the worst part is the response from Burns & Mac: “We are not requesting all the incentives that were available to us.”
In other words, “we could have taken more.” And certainly the City Council would have given more. Is that comforting to anyone?