Archive for July, 2011

More Subsidy Tracking in Kentucky, Michigan and Pennsylvania

July 21, 2011

Subsidy Tracker, Good Jobs First’s database of company-specific info on economic development subsidies, has just greatly expanded its coverage of Kentucky, Michigan and Pennsylvania. It wasn’t easy.

Each of those states has an online database with quite a bit of subsidy recipient info, but the data could not be easily captured for reuse in Tracker. Michigan’s site, for example, is in the form of a map that requires the user to click on each individual subsidized location to display details; some of the info requires clicking again to view individual PDF forms. None of the three states was willing to provide us with the underlying data in spreadsheet form.

We solved the problem with the help of consultant Skye Bender-deMoll, who wrote programs that scraped the data from the web or PDF pages and put it into spreadsheets that (after some reformatting) could be uploaded to Subsidy Tracker.

Skye also worked his magic on databases covering individual programs such as Ohio’s Community Reinvestment Areas and North Dakota’s Development Fund.

Thanks to these efforts, plus other non-scraping work, Subsidy Tracker now contains more than 80,000 entries on 216 programs in 39 states.

We are close to exhausting all the available online data from state subsidy programs and have begun focusing more on obtaining unpublished data from agencies.

New Additions

Kentucky
Bluegrass State Skills Corporation Grant-in-Aid Program

Bluegrass State Skills Corporation Skills Investment Credit

Department of Commercialization & Innovation Awards

Incentives for Energy Independence Act

Kentucky Business Investment Program

Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority Direct Loan

Kentucky Enterprise Initiative Act

Kentucky Environmental Stewardship Act

Kentucky Industrial Development Act

Kentucky Industrial Revitalization Act

Kentucky Jobs Development Act

Kentucky Jobs Retention Act

Kentucky Reinvestment Act

Kentucky Rural Economic Development Act

Maine

Pine Tree Development Zones

Michigan

21st Century Jobs Fund

Brownfield Tax Increment Financing

Centers of Energy Excellence

Commercial Personal Property Tax Relief

Economic Development Job Training

Industrial Personal Property Tax Credit

Industrial Personal Property Tax Relief

Investment Tax Credit

MEGA (Michigan Economic Growth Authority) Tax Credits

Michigan Business Tax Battery Credit

Michigan Business Tax Brownfield Credit

Michigan Business Tax Compensation Tax Credit

Research & Development Tax Credit

Sales & Use Tax Exemption

Single Business Tax Brownfield Credit

Special Tooling Property Tax Exemption

Transportation Economic Development Fund

Ohio

Community Reinvestment Areas

Pennsylvania

Customized Job Training

Film Production Grant Initiative

Film Tax Credit

Infrastructure Development Program Grant

Job Creation Tax Credit

Machinery & Equipment Loan Fund

Opportunity Grant Program

Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority  (PIDA) Loans

South Dakota

Revolving Economic Development and Initiative (REDI) Fund

Additional years of coverage added

Alaska – Film Tax Credit – now FY2010-2011

Arizona – Enterprise Zone Premium and Income Credit – now FY2006-2010

North Dakota – ND Development Fund – now 1990-Jun2011

California Latest State to Do Away With Recovery Act Website

July 21, 2011

It’s no longer just Republican governors who openly oppose the federal stimulus law who have stripped or shut down their states’ Recovery Act websites.  As of July 1, the stimulus website in California, the biggest of the blue states, is no more.

Perhaps it’s not so surprising that California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) has decided to get rid of the state website dedicated to tracking Recovery Act funds.  Before he even took office, Brown announced in December 2010 that he was eliminating the state’s Office of the Inspector General, which oversaw California’s use of Recovery Act funds.  At the time, Brown said that the Office was redundant and unaffordable for a state facing a multi-billion dollar budget deficit.  We can probably assume that the decision to eliminate the state’s stimulus website also comes out of budgetary concerns.

At the web address that used to host the California Recovery Act website, there is now only a message that reads: “As of July 1, 2011 the California Recovery website has been discontinued. Recovery Act data is available on the Federal Recovery website at www.recovery.gov.”  But as we’ve argued at Good Jobs First, simply directing residents to the federal Recovery Act site is not enough.  Effective state stimulus websites provide more state-specific funding and program details than the federal website.

On the one hand, we recognize that states are facing really tough budget shortfalls and have had to make tough decisions; some worthwhile programs must be cut.  But as Collins Center Vice President Leda Perez has pointed out, you can’t put a price tag on the value of transparent and open government.  And although many stimulus funds are drying up this year (thereby exacerbating state budget shortfalls), state agencies in California and across the country will continue to oversee large sums of Recovery Act funds through 2013.

Keeping that in mind, the concern here is that states may be prematurely “moving on” from the Recovery Act, and that type of attitude could become increasingly prevalent in the months ahead.  In addition to the states we’ve chronicled that have taken down their stimulus websites, there’s also New Hampshire and New Mexico, which recently announced that they are shutting down the state Recovery Act offices that were created to run their websites and more broadly oversee stimulus spending.   In announcing that they are closing up shop, the New Hampshire Office of Economic Stimulus added that the state’s stimulus website will only remain active until December 31.  We’ll probably soon be hearing about other states that are shutting down Recovery Act offices and websites.

In many ways, the Recovery Act has been a boon to transparency and accountability.  States shouldn’t let the ongoing phase-out of stimulus funds tempt them to return to business as usual.

Subsidized Job Flight in Ohio

July 7, 2011

Study: Companies Get Subsidies to Move, Mostly Leaving Hard-Hit Areas in Cleveland and Cincinnati Metro Areas

Cleveland, Ohio, July 7, 2011—One hundred and sixty-four companies were given lucrative property tax breaks as they moved facilities around within the Cleveland and Cincinnati metro areas.  The subsidized relocations, affecting an estimated 14,500 workers, were overwhelmingly outward bound and by many measures fueled suburban sprawl, especially in the Cleveland region.

By dispersing jobs away from the urban cores, the relocations worsened inequalities in wealth and opportunity. They moved jobs away from areas hardest hit by plant closings and with higher rates of poverty, unemployment and people of color to more affluent and less diverse areas. Most also moved to locations that are inaccessible via public transportation, denying job opportunities to carless workers and denying thousands more any commuting choice.

Ominously, Ohio’s economic development programs are becoming much less transparent, denying taxpayers the ability to see how their job investments are performing—or where.

Those are the key conclusions of Paid to Sprawl: Subsidized Job Flight from Cleveland and Cincinnati, a study released today by Good Jobs First at a press conference in Cleveland. The study is available at www.goodjobsfirst.org.  Funded by the Ford Foundation, it is the largest study of subsidized relocations ever performed in the United States.

“Ohio’s enterprise zone program is so loose it has been perverted,” said Greg LeRoy, the study’s lead author. “It has become pro-sprawl, which is tragic given that it was originally created to revitalize older areas.” The study also examines Community Reinvestment Areas, a program succeeding enterprise zones.

To remedy these problems, the study recommends that the state encourage the creation of cooperation systems among local officials and anti-poaching protocols like those in effect in Montgomery County (Dayton) and Summit County (Akron) and that being debated in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland).  To reverse declining transparency, the study recommends that all economic development deals’ costs and benefits be disclosed online. It also recommends that proposed deals should be ineligible unless they are accessible via public transportation. Finally, regional revenue-sharing would reduce tax-base competition and complement a cooperation system.

Founded in 1998, Good Jobs First is a non-profit, non-partisan research center promoting accountability practices in economic development and smart growth for working families. Headquartered in Washington, DC, it has a project office in New York.


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