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Make IDAs accountable

May 15, 2012
The Leader Herald

New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli recently released a stunning statistic. He says taxpayers pay more than $2,500 in tax breaks for the average job created through arrangements with an industrial development agency.

His analysis shows there is little connection between job growth and the nearly $500 million in tax breaks provided by IDAs operating in municipalities statewide, including in our local counties.

DiNapoli's review showed more than 4,000 businesses received the tax breaks, but that IDAs realized 22,000 fewer jobs last year than the year before. The cost to taxpayers to create these jobs went up 9 percent over the previous year, he says.

The comptroller has a suggestion. He's proposing a bill that would require clearly described job goals when a tax break is provided, followed by an accounting when the tax break expires. If the jobs promised weren't created, local governments would be able to take the avoided taxes from the company. His proposal also would require annual reports from IDAs and a report card on projects and their job success.

Too often, we see companies move to an area after receiving mega-tax breaks and suggesting they will create many jobs. Then, we find out the number of jobs falls short of expectations. Such cases amount to a form of corporate welfare.

It's time to require greater accountability and strict guidelines. Taxpayers can't afford to pay for millions in tax breaks to attract companies that do little to boost employment and the economy.



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