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Upon the creation of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Toxic Substances Control Act, Congress granted the EPA primary responsibility for meeting anti-pollution goals, but allowed the EPA to delegate enforcement authority to state agencies. However, some state enforcement programs frequently do not meet national goals, and states do not always take necessary enforcement actions necessary to do so, ultimately weakening the EPA’s enforcement program. Thus, evaluating relative state performance is made more difficult by the lack of consistency in the ways the states report on their enforcement activity. The purpose of the current report is to examine the relative performance of states with regard to their enforcement activities—specifically, their caseloads and the penalties they collect. This report recommends that states be required to employ a standard form of online disclosure. Absent that, transparency should be provided by the EPA.
Though the United States has a large and highly developed pharmaceutical industry, it operates on an extractive model that contributes to inequality and increasingly produces drug shortages, inefficiency, lagging innovation, misinformation and misuse of medications, and the world’s highest drug prices. These poor outcomes are the natural consequence of an industry oriented around the goal of maximizing profit above all else. This report outlines a model for a structural alternative—public ownership in the pharmaceutical sector—and offers initial considerations about the potential benefits of such a model for national health and wellbeing, the economy and democracy.
An examination of federal and state court records shows that the vast majority of large corporations throughout the U.S. economy have made payments to plaintiffs in at least one employment discrimination or harassment lawsuit since the beginning of 2000. These include individual and class action cases alleging discrimination based on gender, race, national origin, age, or disability as well as sexual or racial harassment. This report demands that large corporations do more to disclose the full extent to which they are targeted in discrimination and harassment lawsuits; the public availability of this information will put additional pressure on corporations to take steps to eradicate discrimination and harassment from their workplace.
Activists, organizers, and reformers often demand transparency from the criminal legal system because of the harm the system inflicts behind closed doors—particularly upon Black and Brown, poor, LGBTQ, and immigrant communities. For organizers working to dismantle the criminal legal system, however, transparency is best understood as a limited but necessary goal, a first step that must be part of a larger campaign strategy. This report includes a series of questions intended to provide a framework for developing and strengthening organizing campaign strategies around transparency and access. In particular, through answering these questions, organizers can frame transparency as a first step—and not the end point—of campaigns, develop a rigorous definition of accountability beyond transparency, and ensure that demands for transparency and access do not produce only reformist solutions.
Public school students in the U.S. suffered poorer schools—and local and state taxpayers paid higher taxes—in 2019 due to corporate tax breaks; economic development tax abatements given to corporations cost public school districts at least $2.37 billion in foregone revenue in FY 2019. This report presents case studies from schools in Louisiana, Missouri, New York, South Carolina, and Texas where schools are losing significant revenue to tax abatements. Additionally, this report makes recommendations to these states and offers suggestions to the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (BASB); these recommendations include capping the share of each locality’s property and sales tax base that can be abated in the name of economic development, giving school boards control to opt in or out of tax-break deals, requiring all governments that are making abatement agreements to report the costs of such deals to all affected jurisdictions, and more.
The City of Memphis has deliberately avoided its municipal pension obligations at the same time it has granted a series of costly property tax abatements, such as payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs), to large corporations and sports franchises. For every year between 2009 and 2012, the revenues lost by Memphis to economic development subsidies exceeded the annual cost of funding the city’s pension system. This report outlines the burdens of PILOTs, and ultimately determines that Memphis’ spending on subsidy deals is eroding the revenues needed to adequately fund public services.
Tech companies have been rapidly expanding their networks of facilities that store and retrieve digital information through the creation of new data centers. State and local governments routinely subsidize these projects, providing traditional subsidies, such as local property tax abatements and investment tax credits, and even establishing incentive programs specifically for data centers. However, subsidies come at the last stage of the data center site selection process and often don’t function as true economic development incentives; that is, they don’t cause something to happen that wouldn’t otherwise. Instead, public officials pay companies to do what they were already planning to do. To avoid such overspending, this report recommends that states and localities fully disclose deal-specific and aggregate program costs (starting when a deal is being negotiated) and cap all state and local subsidies combined at $50,000 per permanent job, and urges public officials to walk away from excessive data center subsidy demands.
Public school districts in South Carolina suffered a sharp increase in lost tax revenue in FY 2019 due to tax breaks granted to private corporations by county governments. The revenues of South Carolina’s school districts are reduced via state permitted programs that grant businesses tax abatements for extremely long periods of time, which could effectively be permanent exemptions. This report offers a variety of policy options to protect the public education system from corporate tax abatements; these include shielding school finance and implementing a county-based disclosure system to ensure that costs and benefits are fully visible for each employer granted an abatement.
The global spread of Covid-19 has highlighted the vital need for reliable high-speed internet and the inadequacies of the for-profit, corporate model in delivering it. This report proposes new approaches to ownership and control that will accelerate and democratize digital infrastructure development, by providing full-fibre access to all, reducing corporate concentration and political power, and ensuring that people have power over their own data. Policy recommendations include overturning state-level preemption laws, utilizing federal funding to operate municipal and community broadband networks, and breaking up Big Tech companies and turning their cloud computing services into a public utility.
Tax incentives given in the name of economic development are the dominant form of spending for job creation in New Mexico; these types of tax incentives are also the least transparent and most poorly monitored. Thus, in response to New Mexico’s costly, ineffective, and insufficiently disclosed tax incentives, this report recommends the following changes: the state should ensure internet sales are taxed, adopt combined reporting for all multistate corporate entities, close the Locomotive Fuel Sales Tax Exemption, disclose online the costs and benefits of each economic development incentive deal for all its incentive programs, and more.