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Illinois Leads Nation in Wal-Mart Subsidies

By a wide margin, Illinois leads the nation in public subsidies to Wal-Mart, according to new data from the nonprofit research group Good Jobs First.

Illinois has given or promised over $150 million in state and local subsidies to Wal-Mart or to developers of shopping centers anchored by a Wal-Mart store – far more than any other state, according to data released by Good Jobs First in a new online searchable database,

After Illinois, the states with the most dollars going to Wal-Mart were Texas, Louisiana and Missouri, each with subsidies totalling between $90 million and $100 million, according to the data base.

Illinois also leads other states in deals concluded in the last three years, with $50 million promised in nine deals involving new Wal-Mart stores.

The Good Jobs First database updates a 2004 study by the group, which identified $1 billion in subsidies to Wal-Mart nationwide. In the last three years, at least $220 million in additional subsidies were granted.

One problem is the lack of consistent public disclosure of economic subsidies, said Philip Mattera, research director for Good Jobs First.

“Illinois has a relatively good disclosure system for the key subsidies given out at the state level,” he said. For subsidies from municipalities and other local entities, the group generally learned of deals from newspaper articles and followed up with local officials.

Subsidies include industrial revenue bonds, free land, infrastructure development, and abatements of property and sales taxes.

The largest subsidies in the state were for Wal-Mart supercenters in Country Club Hills – with property and sales tax rebates totalling $12.25 million – and Orland Hills, where $12 million in sales tax rebates have been promised for a supercenter that will replace an existing Wal-Mart.

Belleville is providing $9.9 million to a development with a Wal-Mart supercenter that will replace an existing Wal-Mart, which received a $7 million city subsidy for land acquisition and infrastructure improvement in 1994.

Similarly, Collinsville is providing $9.5 million for a development with a Wal-Mart supercenter that will replace a Wal-Mart store built in 1991 with financing from a $2.4 million IRB.

Public subsidies to Wal-Mart and other big-box retailers are “not good public policy,” Mattera said, since new big box stores “do not really stimulate economic growth but simply take business away from existing smaller retailers and threaten the jobs of their workers.”

Wal-Mart creates jobs with poverty-level wages and contributes to sprawl, he added. “Public money shouldn’t be used to encourage more of this.”

In addition to direct and indirect development subsidies, Wal-Mart employees in Illinois accounted for nearly $53 million in state and federal Medicaid spending, Good Jobs First estimates.

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