Back in 2008, the Show-Me Institute was staunchly opposed to a plan that could have given aircraft manufacturer Bombardier nearly $1 billion in Missouri tax credits to attract the Canadian company to the state. As Joe Haslag, the Institute’s chief economist, said after the company instead took advantage of tax incentives abroad, Bombardier’s decision to go elsewhere wasn’t necessarily a bad thing at all. For one, tax money given to Bombardier couldn’t have been spent on other state priorities. For another, giving just one company a huge tax advantage was a highly risky gamble for the state, given the thousands of other businesses that otherwise could have had their taxes cut and could have made their own, potentially higher-yielding investments.
Which brings us to 2015: Bombardier, back in Canada, now needs a bailout.
Hours after Justin Trudeau was sworn in as Canada’s prime minister last week, the government of Quebec came calling with a pitch for the biggest state-backed corporate bailout in North America since the financial crisis of 2008-09.
Quebec is asking the federal government to make a “significant” contribution to the $1 billion lifeline the province gave the storied Montreal-based company as it struggles to find buyers for its new commercial jets….
Ottawa has invested heavily and consistently in Bombardier, issuing more than 1.3 billion Canadian dollars (about US$1 billion) in loans to the company over the last half-century. The Montreal company has paid back C$543 million of the loans, according to recently released figures from Industry Canada, and has also received $650 million in export aid.
The province of Quebec is not flush with money
, either, and “had a deficit of C$2.35 billion for the last year ended March 31.” Quebec is, however, highly dependent on the Bombardier company for jobs, which only makes throwing good tax money after bad all the more alluring to province lawmakers—though no less misguided.
The good news is that Missouri won’t bear the brunt of Bombardier’s troubles, thanks in no small part to the work of good government advocates across Missouri. The bad news is that Missouri still has a serious tax incentive problem at both the state
levels. Bombardier may be Canada’s problem today, but Missouri has plenty of tax incentive problems of its own. And as we’ve said before, better to get a handle on them sooner
rather than later.