Some oppose Tesla 'gigafactory' in NM, call it a 'race to the bottom'

Posted at: 08/27/2014 6:04 PM
Updated at: 08/27/2014 6:15 PM
By: Stuart Dyson, KOB Eyewitness News 4

Not so fast! Some New Mexicans want our state government – and other states too – to think twice about the incentives they're offering Tesla Motors in hopes of luring the huge new battery "gigafactory". They call it a "race to the bottom" – the idea that the five states competing for the plant might give away more in tax breaks and subsidies than they would gain in new jobs.

Tesla promises 6,500 news jobs to manufacture lithium ion batteries for its next-generation electric cars. New Mexico is a finalist, along with Texas, Arizona, Nevada and California. Some worry that the winning state's taxpayers would be losers. Albuquerque's Southwest Organizing Project joined other groups in each of the competing states to urge caution, in the form of an open letter.

"Our states have more to gain from cooperation than from competition," the letter says.

"We want to see job growth, too," said Javier Benavidez of SWOP. " We want our economy to thrive. We're pro-economic development, but not at the expense of critical public resources like education and public safety."

New Mexico leaders won't say what the state is offering, but Tesla reportedly expects at least $500 million dollars in subsidies and tax breaks and other government help.

"We're still very much in the hunt for Tesla," said state Economic Development Secretary Jon Barela. "We're one of the 5 finalists for the gigafactory, but while we chase Tesla we don't forget about the small family businesses in New Mexico."

"Our states' residents should feel confident that there are strict performance requirements and money-back guarantees to ensure that Tesla delivers what it promises," the open letter says. It's signed by representatives from SWOP in Albuquerque, Arizona PIRG, the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, Texans for Public Justice, and the California Budget Project.