Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.
The news story " Grants OK'd by Rendell rapped " (Jan. 13 and TribLIVE.com) by Brad Bumsted and Brian Bowling offered a good synopsis of the critiques of Gov. Rendell's spending spree and use of taxpayer debt to fund "economic development" projects.
The process of awarding corporate welfare to attract companies ballooned under Rendell but began decades before. A perfect case study can be found in Rich Cholodofsky's news story " $10 million grant to rehabilitate Sony site " (Jan. 14 and TribLIVE.com) on the taxpayer-funded grant the state will give to rehabilitate the "Sony site" in Westmoreland County.
Amazingly, this will represent at least the fourth occasion when taxpayers will be forced to hand over their hard-earned dollars to subsidize the same location. Sony moved out in 2007, despite getting more than $40 million in corporate welfare under Gov. Robert P. Casey to come to Pennsylvania, then another $1 million grant under Rendell to stay in the state -- a mere two years before shutting down its plant.
Before Sony, the site was occupied by Volkswagen, which got $70 million in state aid in the 1970s under Gov. Milton Shapp. This was touted as a great success -- until Volkswagen moved out in 1987, after 10 years of operation.
Pennsylvania is merely renting jobs with this "economic development" spending, burdening other businesses with higher taxes. Hopefully, Gov. Tom Corbett can learn from the failed policies of the past and work on improving the state's economic climate rather than trying to pick winners.
Nathan A. Benefield
The writer is director of policy research for the Commonwealth Foundation (commonwealthfoundation.org).
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