Atlanta Mayor Draws Criticism for Business Incentive Add-Ons Late in Budget Process

Atlanta’s City Council approved a new budget Monday, but Mayor Kasim Reed is still drawing criticism for a last-minute budget amendment that set aside millions to cover extra costs associated with luring businesses to the city.

The Reed-backed $2.3 million amendment was submitted just hours before the final budget vote. 

Councilwoman Felicia Moore, chair of the council’s finance committee, said details were majorly lacking, beyond a basic idea that Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development arm, would use the funds as a perk for relocating businesses.

“This amendment came out of nowhere, without even a heads-up,” said Moore. 

A majority of council members eventually approved the funds, but not before Moore offered a protest amendment aimed at channeling the $2.3 million to employee pay raises. Moore’s amendment ultimately failed.

“The first problem was proffering an extremely substantial amendment in light of all of the other needs that we’re trying to balance for the city.”

Mayor Reed says Moore’s complaints are misguided.

“Councilwoman Moore, as she so often is, is ill-informed, rash, and makes reckless decisions,” said Reed.

Reed says the extra funds are critical to cover the commitments already made to businesses relocating to Atlanta, including Porsche and the construction firm PulteGroup.

On procedural grounds, he acknowledges some criticism is fair, but insists the council can’t be in the loop about everything.

“It’s a mistake to draw attention to our incentives because we’re currently in the recruitment process for three businesses and by raising this issue – and I’m all for transparency, I understand it – but by raising this issue it’s going to drive up the value of other incentive packages.”

He said his record of success in luring businesses to Atlanta speaks for itself.

Moore, however, says that’s not the point.

“I think his opinion shows that he is ill-informed and that he’s being rash and making reckless comments about me,” said Moore. “There needs to be a little more respect for the council and the budgeting process if we are to approve something to understand what it’s for.”

Moore was one of three council members to vote against the city’s final budget.