Northwest Arkansas Blogging: Corporate Welfare for Wal-Mart
At some point in the last two years, Wal-Mart approached the city of Bentonville, Arkansas (where Wal-Mart’s headquarters is located) with plans to expand their operations at the David Glass Technology Center.
City officials said that was fine, but that the quality of the road leading to the facility didn’t meet standards for the increased traffic volume the expansion would bring, and so the city requested that if Wal-Mart wanted to expand their facilities, then Wal-Mart should pay to have the street improved. In particular, the city wanted Wal-Mart to widen the road to three lanes plus add curb and gutter.
Wal-Mart, in turn, went to their U.S. Congressman John Boozman and asked if it was possible to get federal funding to pay for city street improvements, to widen the street to five lanes, and to extend the street so that it could tie in with the interstate.
Boozman followed up by asking U.S. Representative from Alaska Dan Young to see if funds for the project could be added to the federal highway transportation bill since the proposed project now included a possible highway interchange.
Young added a 35$ million dollar amendment to the bill which passed the House and later the Senate and was signed into law by President Bush this month.
Of course, all of this came as a big surprise to city officials in Bentonville since they never requested the funds. Even more troubling to the city: federal highway transportation funds require a local 20% match. Bentonville is now required by law to come up with the additional funds for the project, despite the fact that their budget has already been stretched really thin.
That's a common pattern for Wal-Mart. If a city doesn't cough up the money for expanding the sewer and road infrastructure to serve their new supercenter, they threaten to take it to another city that offers a higher bid.
Charles is originally from Bentonville himself, so he knows first-hand how things go here in northwest Arkansas. We've got a corporate welfare regional airport, built mainly as a result of lobbying by Wal-Mart, Tyson Foods, the J.B. Hunt trucking company, and the Lindsey real estate interests. The Northwest Arkansas Council, a "private" advocacy group made up mainly of representatives from the above companies, was formed as a "civic-minded" organization to lobby for spending more tax money on infrastructure pork that said companies need to be profitable. Under the influence of these lobbyists, local governments acted in secret (as an "emergency measure," with no prior notice or public debate) to create an inter-governmental airport authority. The authority, acting in collusion with the local University and usual suspects from assorted chambers of commerce, worked not only to secure federal loot (with a lot of skullduggery by ethically challenged consultants in manufacturing an FAA proposal), but to suppress local dissent. I told the utterly sickening story of how the regional airport got shoved down our throats here: "Northwest Arkansas Blogging: On Cockroach Caucuses, Urban Growth Machines, and Airports"
corporate welfare wal-mart transportation subsidies