Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

I grew up in a military family and joined the Air Force in 1971 during the Vietnam War. It was there that I became a peace activist.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Legislature, GD/BIW Need to Wake Up — Maine People Are Not Stupid


By Orlando E. Delogu

Most Maine people know that GD/BIW does not need another $60 million dollars of taxpayer’s money to keep the doors open.  They are scamming the Legislature and the public with veiled threats of closure and job loss if this subsidy is not provided. In fact GD/BIW is one of the wealthiest corporations in America. 

Here are 10 reasons all of which suggest that this latest round of corporate welfare is unwarranted. Badgering the state for another $60 million is an abuse of corporate power; giving in to this demand is legislative dereliction of duty—a duty owed to Maine taxpayers. 

1. Past and ongoing state tax subsidies to GD/BIW total more than $220 million. Maine taxpayers have already done enough for this corporate entity.

2. GD/BIW (on the Fortune 500 list) is the 90th largest corporation in the nation. In FY 2017 alone GD/BIW generated $31 Billion in revenues (five times Maine’s annual budget) and $3 Billion in profits. This rate of profitability goes back over a decade. Given this level of wealth, squeezing Maine for another $60 million cannot be justified on economic grounds.

3. The CEO of GD/BIW is paid $21 million annually; four other employees in the corporate hierarchy annually earn a combined total of $20 million. At public hearings on LD 1781, BIW’s corporate leadership refused to disclose their levels of annual compensation—but they had no qualms asking Maine for $60 million scarce tax dollars.   

4.  Beyond enriching management, the extraordinary level of GD/BIW profitability has in recent years allowed $12.9 Billion to be returned to shareholders in the form of stock buybacks.  They currently have $2.7 Billion of cash on hand.  The assertion that they need another $60 million from Maine taxpayers is ludicrous.

5. The claim that GD/BIW is in competition with the Ingalls yard in Mississippi for navy contracts is also ludicrous.  Both yards make this argument in their respective states in order to extort legislative subsidies; these subsidies inflate corporate profits at the expense of taxpayers.  The fact is the navy, for strategic purposes, needs/wants both of these yards to succeed.  For decades it has almost evenly divided shipbuilding contracts between these two yards and it builds into ship contracts both worker training programs and generous profit margins.  

6. The veiled threat that the failure to grant the requested $60 million will cause GD/BIW to rethink its presence in Maine is pure posturing.  Recently six vessels were simultaneously under various phases of construction; BIW has a nearly ten-year backlog of work; they have over $500 million dollars invested in the present plant, and a trained workforce in place. No corporate entity in their right mind walks away from a profit-making engine of this size and continuing potential.

7. The recently passed GOP tax bill reducing the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21% pours even more money into GD/BIW’s retained earnings—but they still want $60 million from Maine taxpayers.

8. The recently passed budget bill staving off a government shutdown removed long-standing caps on defense spending. The President/Congress is committed to raising this spending sharply. Given events in Southeast Asia navy procurement of next-generation vessels will certainly increase. BIW will get its share of this spending; it does not need $60 million dollars from Maine taxpayers.  

9. To further enhance profit margins, GD/BIW recently acquired CSRA Inc., one of the largest systems research and information technology companies in the nation, for $9.6 Billion. The Departments of Defense and Homeland Security are CSRA’s biggest customers—this completed deal is further evidence that GD/BIW does not need $60 million from Maine taxpayers.  

10.  Finally, the proposed amendment to LD 1781 breaking it into two $30 million dollar subsidies, each running 10 years, is a total sham.  LD 1781’s employment requirements are low and will be readily met. And the $100 million of so-called “new major investment” is defined so broadly that it too will be readily met in the normal course of building the ships already contracted for, or that will be contracted for, as navy defense budgets increase. The present BIW facility will not be altered significantly.       

In short, Maine people understand most of the above points; so too do most members of the Legislature. We know that $60 million is “chump change” for GD/BIW—but for the people of Maine this is real money needed to address real needs outlined daily in newspapers across the state—the opioid crisis, underfunded schools, dangerous roads, funding health insurance expansion, and more. 

Maine is a poor state; the needs of its people should count for more than marginally increasing profits for one of the wealthiest corporations in America. Shame on GD/BIW for insisting on this $60 million dollar subsidy. If it capitulates to this demand, shame on the Legislature.
    
~ Orlando Delogu is emeritus professor of law at the University of Southern Maine and specializes in government relations and tax policy.  He also writes a regular column for The Forecaster.

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