Mapping the Route to Dollars: AAA Mid-Atlantic's Four-State Tour

By Sarah Stecker

NOT JUST THE BIG BOYS

In their fierce competition against each other to convince businesses to locate within their borders, the primary tools states use are tax breaks called “business incentives:” public dollars that go to companies as part of a process that often is largely hidden from the taxpayers that foot the bill. The average state has more than 30 business subsidy programs, according to Greg LeRoy, head of Good Jobs First, a national non-profit focused on economic development accountability.

One recent round in this subsidy game involved the neighboring states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland. The object of their competition was AAA Mid-Atlantic, known to thousands of motorists for providing road maps, hotel discounts and towing of stalled cars. Delaware “won.” AAA Mid-Atlantic moved into facilities there. New Jersey came in a distant second-picking up some AAA jobs. Pennsylvania and Maryland were losers. In the end, though, the real winner was AAA. In return for moving workers across four states like checkers on a checkerboard, it received millions of government dollars. No new jobs were created.

What used to be called the American Automobile Association-the abbreviation “AAA” became the official title several years ago-is a household name when it comes to useful services for vacations and everyday commuting.

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