The state of Oregon is a failure
when it comes to the transparency of economic subsidies it provides, according to a report
released today by Good Jobs First, a Washington, D.C. non-profit.
Here's a statement that accompanied the analysis:
Oregon received a grade of F because the state lacked reporting on subsidy recipients. Without this important transparency, taxpayers will be left in the dark about where their tax dollars are going. Oregon joined 12 other states in receiving a grade of F, including Arkansas, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Wyoming. Meanwhile, Illinois, Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Ohio were found to have the best economic development disclosure.
“Oregon can't afford spending big dollars on subsidies without tracking where they go and whether they deliver bang for the buck,” said Jon Bartholomew at Oregon State Public Interest Research Group (OSPIRG). “When public dollars go to private businesses, we need the highest level of transparency.”
“With states being forced to make painful budget decisions, taxpayers expect economic development spending to be fair and transparent,” said Good Jobs First Executive Director Greg LeRoy. “Claims that sunshine would hurt a state's business climate have been discredited, trumped by people's rising expectations about government information being online.”
One of the subsidies Good Jobs First looked at, the Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC) was the subject of controversy a year ago. Reporting by the Oregonian newspaper exposed abuses of the program that cost state taxpayers millions of dollars. However, while reforms to the BETC program were passed by the legislature, the data on who receives the credit is still not available online. “It should not require journalists submitting public records requests to be able to see this information,” added Bartholomew. “If the public could have seen online how this program was operating, problems would likely have been caught sooner or been averted.”
“The outpouring of job-subsidy data is a breakthrough for state government transparency and accountability,” said Good Jobs First Research Director Philip Mattera, leader of the six-person team that produced the study and web tools. “Enhanced disclosure makes it much easier to monitor the tens of billions of dollars in taxpayer revenues that are being diverted to private parties each year.”