Archive for March, 2014

Accountability Updates in Oregon

March 20, 2014

intel sign

Two new reports released this week by watchdog groups in Oregon show mixed results for accountability of the state’s economic development subsidies.

OSPIRG released Revealing Tax Subsidies 2014, an update to its previous evaluation of how well the state is complying with its three year old transparency law.  While the state has improved its disclosure since OSPIRG’s last assessment, especially for large controversial programs, the group found that the state is still failing to report key information for 14 of the 19 subsidies covered by the law.  In particular, many of these under-disclosed programs are missing information about the economic outcomes (e.g. jobs, wages, or investment) ostensibly generated by these subsidies.

Lacking such information, it is impossible to know whether the colossal corporate tax subsidies documented this week by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy and Citizens for Tax Justice are actually doing the state any good.  The Oregon Center for Public Policy announced yesterday that at least 24 (and probably many more) of the state’s most profitable corporations included in that report have paid no state income tax in recent years.  Oregon has a minimum corporate tax, but companies are able to dodge their tax responsibility with economic development subsidy tax credits.

Read the full OSPIRG report here and see OCPP’s reporting on corporate tax dodging here.  The ITEP/CTJ national study is available here.

Subsidies See More Sunshine in NYC

March 19, 2014

sunshine week verticalIn the spirit of Sunshine Week, Good Jobs New York is proud to announce a trio of transparency enhancements introduced at this month’s New York City Industrial Development Agency board meeting. Our ongoing advocacy efforts promoting transparency at the agency led to these improvements and we applaud the IDA for taking steps to be more open. The improvements, which are expected to be in place at the IDA by the summer, include:

• Adding an interactive map of active deals to the agency’s website;
• Moving from audio casting to webcasting of IDA Board meetings; and
• Creating of transcripts of testimony given at IDA public hearings.

These initiatives build on an earlier set of reforms put in place in 2010 which extended access to company-specific details for the life of a project’s agreement; provided data on the value of land sales negotiated by the Economic Development Corporation, and – most notably – required public posting of company-specific subsidy information in digital database files.

Additionally, in response to a suggestion from the former IDA Board appointee of then New York City Comptroller John Liu, the Directors began to receive a monthly “Enforcement Action Report” with details and status updates for any IDA project not in compliance with its project agreement. Although this and all materials provided to board members were not made available to the public, GJNY obtains these records through a regular Freedom of Information request and posts them on our website.

The new IDA policies are a promising start on a broader list of goals outlined in a detailed letter to NYC Economic Development Corporation President Kyle Kimball from ten leading transparency and good government groups earlier this month. Good Jobs New York will continue working with these organizations to bring ever-increasing sunshine to the city’s economic development policies.

New Jersey’s Economic Development Incentives Face Scrutiny with Christie Administration

March 5, 2014

Christie troubleAs the Christie Administration faces intensifying scrutiny over the Governor’s relationships with his political appointees, the state’s economic development incentive awards have also come into question.  This week The New York Times revealed that David Samson, Chairman of the Port Authority and the central figure of “Bridge-gate,” also played a critical role in expanding the scope of New Jersey’s subsidies through his law firm Wolff & Samson.  In addition to lobbying for tax breaks for Honeywell, the firm also served as counsel for the state’s bond deal on the controversial Panasonic relocation, and represented the infamous Xanadu (now American Dream) project when it sought a new set of subsidies from the state.

New Jersey Policy Perspective revealed a year ago that the volume and value of special tax breaks given to companies mushroomed under Gov. Christie’s leadership, rising to a record $2.1 billion in the first three years of his term.  But the subsidy blowout hasn’t demonstrated a positive effect on New Jersey’s employment rate, according to Jon Whiten at NJPP.  Compared to the national average, the state has recovered half as many jobs following the recession.  We may now be getting a better understanding of how these subsidies were used, if not for job creation.

Read the full article “In Job, Appointee Profits and Christie Gains Power” at The New York Times website.