A new study released today by OSPIRG Foundation examined the reports made available on Oregon’s transparency website as a result of a three-year old transparency law, and found that while the largest and most widely used economic development subsidy programs covered by the law have information made available to the public online, key information is still shielded from public view.
“The Oregon transparency website update at the beginning of the year brought more information than ever before about economic development tax subsidies,” said Celeste Meiffren-Swango, OSPIRG Foundation’s Consumer and Taxpayer Advocate and author of the study. “However, there is still more work to be done to ensure that taxpayers can track their return on investment from every economic development program.”
Revealing Tax Subsidies 2014 finds that five of the nineteen programs covered by Oregon’s transparency law provided complete information that account for nearly $417 million of the $671 million in total subsidies. This includes the Strategic Investment Program and Enterprise Zone Business—two of the largest and most widely used economic development programs.
However, the remaining fourteen programs lack critical pieces of information or provide no information at all. Reasons for these omissions range from legal confidentiality of certain data to there being no tracking or accountability systems in place for a set of the programs.
“In order to evaluate these subsidy programs, the public needs to know which companies are participating, the size of the subsidy, what the recipients are promising and whether or not they deliver,” said Meiffren-Swango. “Oregon has taken some steps in the right direction, but the public still doesn’t have the full picture for how tax dollars are used on a majority of these programs.”
OSPIRG Foundation is calling on Governor Kitzhaber to work with his state agencies to address these deficiencies.
“Governor Kitzhaber should stand up for taxpayers by instructing his agencies to show the public whether companies that get state or local tax incentives in exchange for jobs or other economic growth are doing just that,” said Meiffren. “This would hardwire transparency and accountability into Oregon’s approach to tax subsidies and ensure the public is never kept in the dark again.”
To read the full report, go to: http://www.ospirgfoundation.org/reports/orf/revealing-tax-subsidies-2014
Oregon’s transparency website tax expenditure page can be found at: http://www.oregon.gov/transparency/Pages/TaxExpenditures.aspx