Report: ESPN Has Received $260M in Tax Breaks from Connecticut

ESPN, a company that makes $6 billion a year in cable subscription fees, has received nearly $260 million in tax breaks from Connecticut over the past 12 years. 

As the New York Times notes, ESPN is "hardly needy," because with "100 million households paying about $5.54 a month for ESPN, regardless of whether they watch it, the network takes in more than $6 billion a year in subscriber fees alone."

Yet, according to a Times analysis of public records, "ESPN has received about $260 million in state tax breaks and credits over the past 12 years," including "$84.7 million in development tax credits because of a film and digital media program, as well as savings of about $15 million a year since the network successfully lobbied the state for a tax code change in 2000." 

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, a Democrat, belives that "the conventional wisdom is that any business with ESPN is good business. After all, ESPN is Connecticut’s most celebrated brand and a homegrown success story, employing more than 4,000 workers in the state." To him, "ESPN is one of Connecticut’s best resources, and the state must use all tools available to aid its growth and keep its home base and the thousands of well-paying jobs it promises in Bristol."

ESPN reportedly "employs one of the top lobbying firms in Connecticut and has spent $1.2 million on lobbying expenses since 2007," which may explain its favorable tax benefits. 

Since 2006, ESPN has received about "$84.7 million in tax certificates — about a fifth of the total amount awarded" from a fund meant to expand Connecticut's digital footprint. ESPN has used most of those tax certificates to develop its digital sites, but it also "regularly sells the tax credit certificates to other entities in private transactions, which could mean that the network receives less value than the amount on the voucher. Such transfers are common and within the rules of the program.""

According to the Times, "ESPN has spent about $1 billion on construction in and around Bristol, a town of about 60,000, erecting 13 new buildings and expanding several others. During that period, the company’s work force in Connecticut has swelled from 1,700 to more than 4,000," making ESPN the 25th-largest employer in the state. They have underwritten many charitable ventures--like the Boys and Girls Clubs. 

Lawmakers in Connecticut in favor of the tax breaks have said they do not want the company to relocate to Orlando, Los Angeles, or Austin while critics have said there is no evidence that ESPN would want to permanently go to those locations and do not need to be subsidized with taxpayer funds. 

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