***Cross-posted on BlueMassGroup***
Along with my colleague in the House, Rep. Carl Sciortino, I’ve been a frequent poster on BMG on the issue of transparency and accountability in government spending, particularly around the issue of corporate tax credits and economic development spending.
As time goes on, evidence continues to mount that the millions we give out in tax credits and subsidies to corporations each year are not having their intended effect, and that despite big promises, job creation numbers too often fall far short of expectations.
The Boston Globe recently did some great investigative journalism work looking into the hundreds of millions of dollars in state and local tax breaks we’ve given away under the Economic Development Incentive Program, which aims to encourage companies to invest here and create jobs. As the author noted:
“Often the incentives work and new jobs result. But far too often taxpayers have not come close to getting their money’s worth.â€
I encourage you to read the whole story here.
And again today, another Globe story about the lack of transparency surrounding tens of millions in tax breaks being given out by the Economic Assistance Coordinating Council this afternoon.
As our budget situation worsens, and as many legislators make it clear that they have no interest in looking at ways of increasing revenue, leaving deeper cuts to local aid, human services, and other important programs as our only option, I’ve become more and more passionate on this issue of transparency.
We spend hundreds of millions on tax credits and subsidies each year — and yet legislators, and the public, have no idea where the money is going or what effect it’s having. How can we continue to cut important programs and services and still refuse to even look at the impact and effectiveness of the money we spend on these economic development packages?
Tomorrow the Senate will debate an economic development bill designed to, among other things, increase the efficiency of the state’s economic development agencies and direct more lending to small businesses to create jobs. There are many good things in this bill â€“ but one major thing is lacking, which is data collection.
If we are truly looking to increase efficiency, then we need to be collecting the performance management data that will allow us to make informed decisions and ensure that our economic development dollars are being spent as efficiently as possible. Quite simply, you can’t manage what you can’t measure.
Without this level of accountability neither the public nor the legislature can have confidence that we are spending our economic development dollars wisely.
I’m proposing an amendment to the bill that would add data collection, transparency and accountability measures to the bill. You can read a summary or full text of the amendment (#69), but in brief it would:
– Provide greater transparency, by requiring public (online) reporting of all economic development spending (including tax reductions, credits & subsidies)
– Require uniform economic development reporting requirements, including current in-state employment levels, salary and benefit structures as well as job creation proposals
– Establish economic developments standards (including a per-job subsidy limit) and require clawbacks (recapture of taxpayer dollars) when job promises are not met.
Adding strong disclosure requirements and making this data publicly available in a searchable database, would bring Massachusetts more in line with such states as Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island that already have similar provisions in place.
Ben Foreman of MassINC, which has been a leading voice for transparency in Massachusetts, wrote about the proposed amendment on his blog yesterday. As he noted:
“The vote on this amendment will provide a good measure of whether the bill’s economic development planning components are a sincere effort to protect taxpayer investment.â€
If you support this idea, I urge you to please contact your Senator today and ask them to support Amendment #69 to the Economic Development bill, An Amendment Relative to Economic Development, Transparency and Fiscal Accountability.