The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Monday, July 05, 2004  

Comcast Shut Off in Harrisburg

Comcast Corp., based in Philadelphia and the nation’s largest cable television company, lost what one would have thought, based on the firm’s massive lobbying and public relations campaigns, was a life-or-death struggle during the recently completed annual state budget process in Harrisburg, Pa.

The Philadelphia Inquirer today reports (“No Action on Bill for Comcast Tax Break,” by Henry J. Holcomb and Suzette Parmley):

Unmoved by the cable giant’s pleas that time was running out on its plans to build a headquarters skyscraper in Philadelphia, the lawmakers adjourned for the summer without approving tax breaks Gov. Ed Rendell had offered to make the project economically viable.

Citing rising interest rates and building costs, Comcast has said a delay would probably kill plans for the 60-story building, called One Pennsylvania Plaza, at 17th Street and John F. Kennedy Boulevard. […]

They have been seeking since last year to have their building site declared a Keystone Opportunity Improvement Zone, an economic development program from the Republican Ridge and Schweiker administrations. In such zones, various business taxes -- except for wage taxes paid by employees -- are waived until 2015.

So what were the proposed tax breaks worth to Comcast? According to the Inquirer:

The tax breaks Comcast sought would have been worth about $4 million a year, according to city government estimates. That number that would have grown if Comcast went beyond its initial promise of 800 new jobs and leased more of the 1.5 million square foot complex.

How important is $4 million annually to Comcast’s immediate and long-term financial condition?

By any reasonable standard, not very.

Based on filings Comcast has made with the Securities and Exchange Commission, during the 12-month period ended March 31 (the most recent date for which data are available), the company recorded revenues of $17,738 million, operating income of $2,140 million, and operating cash flows of $2,828 million.

As for Brian L. Roberts, Comcast’s chairman and chief executive officer, the Inquirer, in an annual survey published June 27, reported Roberts “earned” $30.6 million in total compensation (salary, cash bonus, and stock options) in 2003.

It’s not that simple, Comcast and its many allies will argue.

No, but it’s not that complicated either.

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