Taxpayers in Bexar County in a Lose-Lose Proposition

Priorities in a city formerly known as a “low wage town.”

Really, not that good for you.

Bexar County, which includes the City of San Antonio, is close to approving a $5.8 million tax incentive for Maruchan, Inc., the Japanese company that makes Ramen noodles, to build a plant on 60 acres in the county. The dilemma – the majority of the jobs that will be created will pay minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Maruchan reportedly will offer its employees health care benefits, includig vision and dental.  According to a columnist with the San Antonio Express News:

The Center for Public Policy Priorities, culling data from the feds and the state, notes anemic employment growth (1.9 percent) in Bexar County from the last quarter of 2007 to the last of 2011. This growth occurred largely in low-wage sectors, with high-wage sectors mostly experiencing net losses.

Now, using the center’s “family budget estimator,” consider that a single-parent with one child on minimum-wage and with health benefits will still be short more than $1,000 per month.

Bexar County has guidelines that require companies receiving tax incentives from the county to pay a living wage of $10.75 an hour.  To get around County guidelines, Maruchan is not being offered an abatement but a grant where the company would pay its annual property tax; the county would then rebate 60 percent of that to the company each year for 10 years.  A rebate such as that does not have a living-wage stipulation.  The reason commissioners like this idea?

“A job is a job,” County Commissioner Paul Elizondo told The San Antonio Express-News. “We need to get as many of them as we can.”

Meanwhile, San Antonio’s Mayor is out promoting his “Brainpower Initiative” asking for a one-eighth cent sales tax for pre-K programs for San Antonio’s “at risk” children.

Let’s tie the two things together, shall we?

With taxpayer money, the county woos companies to bring in minimum wage jobs.  With taxpayer money, the county again turns to the citizens to pay for child care for parents working in the minimum wage jobs.  Because it’s a fact, most of these supposed “educational” programs become day care programs for low income earners.    It seems awfully like a back door attempt to restore money that was previously necessarily cut from the education bureaucracy because taxpayers demanded it.  As usual, proponents are using the standard battle cry:  It’s for the children!

“We have to do something to right the wrong” done by state lawmakers, said District One Councilman Diego Bernal, referring to the $5.6 billion in cuts to education spending that were made in the last legislative session. “And it was a wrong. There is an element of social justice here.”

In the case of the pre-K program under discussion, many of the targeted beneficiaries are non-English speaking. It doesn’t take too much extrapolation to figure out why a 4 or 5 year old does not speak English as his/her native language.

Asking citizens to fund pre-K programs (day care) for children of illegal immigrants, when citizens could use that money to help pay for schooling for their own children is wrong, as is using taxpayer money to play favorites with corporations looking for government handouts.  In both cases, the county is not using taxpayer money in a best-use scenario with the biggest possible returns.  There are better alternatives. Namely, not looking to fleece taxpayers as the solution to every problem.

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