Both the Arkansas House and Senate voted last week to give Big River Steel millions more in corporate welfare.
Now the plant is looking to expand its operations — in exchange for the legislature expanding the amount of corporate welfare the plant receives.
Senate Bill 688 would allow for Big River Steel to receive millions of dollars more in tax credits annually for expanding in Arkansas. The legislation was signed into law by Gov. Asa Hutchinson earlier this week.
According to the Department of Finance and Administration, SB 688 would lead to a reduction in state revenue of up to $11 million per year for qualifying expansion projects.
As you might have heard throughout the session, there isn’t a lot of free money in this year’s budget for state government. Numerous new programs and tax cut ideas were voted down — the rationale was that there just wasn’t money in the budget for additional programs or tax cuts.
For example, one bill that was killed in the House last week was a school choice program that would’ve given tax credits to businesses and citizens who donated to an educational savings account program.
State Rep. Charlotte Douglas said last week during the SB 688 debate in the House:
What I would point out to you is this morning we had a bill fail that would’ve given $3 million to school choice, and everyone was up in arms about that because $3 million was coming out of our budget that would hurt public schools. I’d ask you where everyone is at this point about this $9 million that’s going to come out of the budget year after year after year.
The decision to throw more money at one corporation is even more mystifying, considering that David Stickler, CEO of Big River Steel, told legislators last year that economic incentives “have never been the driving factor” when considering where to locate a company.
No one would ever make a decision to expand or locate somewhere just based on the level of economic incentives. I think too many people put that at the top of the totem pole. That’s part of the equation. It certainly has never been the driving factor.
Someone should alert legislators to the existence of this quote before they decide to give Big River Steel any more corporate welfare.