in 2017 the true costs are going to become obvious.

For the first time in U.S. history, the costs of corporate welfare are going to be revealed, coast to coast. Tens of billions of dollars never before disclosed will become visible to taxpayers—and some people say they might have better uses for the money.

The price-tag data won’t arrive a moment too soon: As school districts and other local and state government bodies finally report these huge costs, they will also be struggling to cope with big cuts in federal aid soon to be enacted by the Trump administration and the Republican-led Congress. For activists fighting to preserve fair public services, the new numbers will become ready ammunition.

GASB: Your New Best Friend for Progressive Budget Advocacy

Why will all this data suddenly appear? Why will more than 50,000 local and state government bodies disclose all this spending? Because GASB says so. That’s the Governmental Accounting Standards Board (or “GAZ-bee”), the obscure professional standards-setting group which issues Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, or GAAP, for the public sector.

GASB periodically updates GAAP by issuing Statements, or amendments. You may recall GASB for its controversial Statements requiring governments to disclose their future pension and retiree health-care liabilities.

Though GASB by itself has no legal authority, most states require some school districts, counties and/or cities to obey GAAP. Many more jurisdictions adhere to GAAP because it enables them to get the best credit ratings and lowest interest rates when they float bonds.

In 2015, GASB issued Statement No. 77 on Tax Abatement Disclosures, using “abatements” as an umbrella term for all kinds of corporate tax breaks granted for economic development (property, income or sales tax). Costly giveaways like property tax abatements and many other tax breaks granted in the name of jobs or other community benefits will now show up in government spending reports.

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