April 19, 2012
MARLBOROUGH —Just a few miles from the headquarters of Evergreen Solar, which declared bankruptcy after accepting tens of millions of dollars in tax breaks and subsidies, state Auditor Suzanne Bump said yesterday that a commission will release recommendations next week to bring more accountability to tax-break programs.
Speaking at the 32nd annual senior conference at Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School, Bump said the review of tax incentives is one way her office aims to protect taxpayer dollars.
During the conference, hosted by state Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, Bump said her office had reviewed about $2 billion worth of existing tax incentives. About half of those, she said, lacked certain identified attributes such as proper transparency or accountability.
Many of them, she said, lacked an explicit purpose and several were without “clawback” provisions, or stipulations allowing the state to recoup cash if a business or entity reneges on their end of the tax break or credit agreement.
That review, she said, spurred the creation of the Tax Expenditure Commission, which has been reviewing the way the state goes about granting and crafting tax exemptions.
“That’s a new way of using the power of the state auditor’s office to examine state spending,” she said.
After getting the subsidies and tax breaks, Evergreen last year shut down a manufacturing plant in Devens, filed for bankruptcy and sold its assets to a Chinese company. Eight hundred jobs were lost.
Evergreen’s woes led the state to seek stronger reporting requirements from companies that receive public support and clawback provisions to recover public funding if necessary, said Rick Sullivan, state secretary for Energy and Environmental Affairs, in February.
The commission is expected to take its final vote on a report Monday, Bump said.
After her address to the seniors, Bump said the commission will not be making recommendations on whether or not to nix certain exemptions, but will rather suggest a framework for the Legislature and Gov. Deval Patrick to properly review the effectiveness of tax breaks and whether the state actually gets a bang for its buck.
Besides Bump and Eldridge, seniors also heard from Secretary of Elder Affairs Ann Hartstein and state Rep. Steven Levy, who also serves on the Tax Expenditure Commission.
Before gathering for the speeches and entertainment in the Assabet auditorium yesterday, seniors attended a number of workshops and informational sessions on subjects like accessing state services and managing their personal finances.