OSPIRG Brings Transparency to Major Tax Subsidy

After OSPIRG filed a petition for public records order, the Oregon Department of Justice ordered Business Oregon, the state's business development department, to release data about the Strategic Investment Program--a major tax subsidy program estimated to cost Oregon taxpayers $322 million over the next two years, stating that there is a “strong public interest” in disclosing the information.

Since 2009, Oregon taxpayers have spent more than a billion dollars on corporate tax subsidies that are intended to create jobs and promote economic growth, while another $665 million is on tap to be spent in the next two years. Little information exists about whether these programs are delivering on their promises, despite a 2011 law intended to beef up disclosure of this spending on the Oregon Transparency Website.

Business Oregon and other state agencies have long justified suppression of this kind of data, arguing it is a ‘trade secret’ and is protected from disclosure under the public records law.

The DOJ's public records order disagreed. The order states, “Regardless of whether that information may qualify as ‘trade secrets,’ we conclude that there is a strong public interest in its disclosure here… The incentives represent a sizeable public investment in that outcome, and the public has a correspondingly sizeable interest in ascertaining the extent to which its investment is paying off.”

OSPIRG will be asking the Department of Administrative Services to post these documents on the Oregon Transparency Website. In the meantime, the public can access the Annual Employment Reports for the Strategic Investment Program on OSPIRG's Transparency Portal.

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