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Virginia rolls out the corporate welfare carpet for GE

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Opinion Zone,Norman Leahy

Governor Bob McDonnell’s office has issued a spate of press releases touting the number of new jobs his economic development team is bringing to the commonwealth.  These missives aren’t new. But the headline of one caught my eye both for its hyperbole, and its subject.

In an April 13th release headlined “Governor McDonnell Celebrates GE’s Plans to add 200 New Jobs in Henrico County,” we’re immediately lead to believe that the otherwise level-headed McDonnell has donned a party hat and is passing out balloons, so great is his joy that General Electric is bringing jobs to the Richmond suburbs.

It’s a funny thing about GE, though…the company has become notorious both for CEO Jeff Immelt’s ties to the Obama administration, and for its aggressive foray into projects that depend upon government subsidies. The Washington Examiner’s own Tim Carney called the corporate behemoth "the for-profit arm of the Obama administration."

Then there’s also the matter of its tax bill. According to the New York Times, GE paid no corporate taxes on over $5 billion in U.S.-generated profits.  The Times said the company”… claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion,” a charge that’s been hotly disputed.

That tempest aside, there can be little doubt that GE has done very well for itself by gaming federal and state subsidies for alternative energy and other projects.  And at least in Virginia’s case, it’s still a champ when it comes to milking the political class for additional favors that may or may not flow to its bottom line. From the Governor’s press release:

The Virginia Economic Development Partnership worked with Henrico County and the Greater Richmond Partnership to secure the project for Virginia. U.S. Senator Mark Warner and Congressman Eric Cantor also assisted with the project. Through its Virginia Jobs Investment Program, the Virginia Department of Business Assistance (VDBA) will provide funding and services to support the company’s recruitment and training activities.

Dollar figures weren’t attached to any of this, which is a shame, as a recent deal touted to bring 500 jobs to Henry County soaked up at least $2.6 million in state-controlled and taxpayer funds.

But we can be sure the state will expend whatever scarce dollars, and commit whatever precious resources are needed to ensure that one of the nation’s largest corporate welfare recipients gets its share of Virginia-flavored support, too.  

And it is amusing to see both Eric Cantor and Mark Warner working hand-in-hand on this deal. It seems that providing subsidies to big business is the true path to bipartisanship.

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