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Wednesday, July 8, 2020 by Jessi Devenyns
Discussion about Tesla tax break drags into second day of discussion
The debate surrounding the proposed incentive package designed to coax Tesla to make its new home in Travis County will continue at the Commissioners Court on Wednesday.
After taking public testimony for the item on July 7, the commissioners unanimously recessed until 1 p.m. on Wednesday when they will reconvene the discussion. This is the second week in a row that the commissioners have not discussed the incentive agreement in open court. At that meeting, county legal staff will present answers to the questions posed during the executive session for the public to hear.
“It feels like transparency has become an issue of controversy with the county on this project,” said Bo Delp with the Local 23 food service union.
Other speakers noted that the deal, as Tesla staff presented it in June, was not detailed enough for the public to weigh in on the benefits of the proposed jobs and economic development that the company is forecasting.
Tesla is estimating that the construction of its Gigafactory will bring 5,000 jobs, 65 percent of which will be unskilled labor positions earning salaries no less than $15 per hour. In addition, Travis County staffers predict that Tesla’s presence in Travis County will create at least 4,000 jobs due to secondary effects.
However, union representatives told the Commissioners Court that they wanted to see a detailed employment plan outlining how many jobs will earn more than that minimum threshold, which jobs will have benefits, how many of the 5,000 jobs will be permanent versus contract, and whether workers will be eligible to unionize. “We also think that Tesla should have to say a lot more about these jobs,” said Manuel Quinto-Pozos, an attorney with the United Auto Workers union.
Jeremy Hendricks with Laborers Local 1095 union said that the electric car maker and the county should “give this deal the light of day it deserves.”
The discussion will continue with a public livestream via the Travis County Clerk’s website.
Photo made available through a Creative Commons license.
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Key Players & Topics In This Article
Economic Development Incentives: This is shorthand for a series of programs designed to lure business to a given region. In Austin, the program tends to take some form of tax-based incentives. These can include rebates or grants that are often tied to a set of stipulations. These tend to include local hiring goals, same-sex partner benefits, or, more recently, wage floors for construction workers who build facilities for the incoming organizations.
Travis County Commissioners Court: The legislative body for Travis County. It includes representatives from the four Travis County Precincts, as well as the County Judge. The County Judge serves as the chair of the Court.