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More Transparency for Economic Development Subsidies
With the New Year, Governor Kitzhaber’s administration brought more transparency to economic development subsidies—giving Oregon taxpayers more tools to be able to track their return on investment through the Oregon Transparency Website.
This action came after over 4,500 Oregonians called on Governor Kitzhaber to require that his state agencies reveal where the $665 million spent on economic development tax subsidies is going, including the names of the companies that are getting public subsidies, tax dollars pledged or received by those companies, what they promised in exchange for those subsidies and whether or not they delivered. In the spring, administration officials made a preliminary commitment to this action by the end of 2013.
A study by OSPIRG Foundation released in May 2013 found that critical details for these economic development tax subsidies was still mostly out of reach for Oregonians, despite a 2011 transparency law requiring disclosure. The study showed that in 2013, of the eighteen programs covered by the 2011 transparency law, only six had reports available for public review on the Oregon transparency website and that state agencies did not provide reports for twelve of the eighteen programs covered by the law, despite evidence that information is available for some of the programs. In 2014, information is available for thirteen of the largest programs covered by the law.
That’s a lot of money: $665 million is enough to put 7,390 teachers back in the classroom or give every household in Oregon a check for $440. With our state facing tough budget choices, it is essential that the public and policymakers have the tools to adequately evaluate economic development tax subsidies.
We are encouraged by this improvement, but our work is far from over—the data for some subsidy programs are still withheld and the information presented is not very user-friendly. We will continue to work hard to make sure that this disclosure occurs not just this year, but every year.
To see the new information, visit the Oregon Transparency Website’s Tax Expenditure page: http://www.oregon.gov/transparency/Pages/TaxExpenditures.aspx
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