Fresh from his $1.3 billion subsidy score in Nevada, billionaire Elon Musk hit it big again last week. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced free public housing and $750 million in government assistance for Mr. Musk’s unprofitable SolarCity.
New York will spend $750 million over two years to build a new plant and buy manufacturing equipment for SolarCity, which already benefits from a federal investment tax credit and state solar-panel rebates. SolarCity leases and installs rooftop solar panels and this summer it bought Bay Area startup Silevo which manufactures high-efficiency solar panels on a small scale. Last year Mr. Cuomo pledged $225 million to refurbish a former steel plant in South Buffalo for Silevo and now he’s sweetened the bargain.
SolarCity will lease the state-owned plant and equipment for $1 per month for 10 years. This will let the company avoid property taxes, which are among the nation’s highest. SolarCity won’t have to pay sales tax on the equipment, and the Governor’s tax reforms this year zeroed out the corporate tax for manufacturers. So SolarCity will effectively operate in New York tax free.
In return SolarCity has agreed to employ 1,460 jobs at the facility for five years, which breaks down to a subsidy of $103,000 a year per head. That’s more than three times Buffalo’s median household income. SolarCity has also promised to spend $5 billion in “combined capital, operational expenses and other costs in the State of New York” over 10 years, if its operation last that long.