PEORIA -- Here's an interesting news release:
National Report Ranks Illinois ‘B’ on Transparency of Economic Subsidies
Chicago, IL – Online disclosure of the names of companies receiving state and local tax breaks, cash grants and other subsidies for job creation is in high demand across the country. According to a report published today by Good Jobs First, a non-profit, non-partisan research center based in Washington, DC, Illinois is leading the way as an example of transparency and accessibility. However, even with the highest rating in the country – Illinois still has a long way to go.
In the report, Show Us the Subsidies, Good Jobs First ranks Illinois number one relative to other states’ on-line economic development disclosure practices. Wisconsin, North Carolina, and Ohio were also praised for their efforts towards increased transparency, while thirteen other states were identified as lacking any form of disclosure at all.
“Illinois can’t afford spending big dollars without tracking where they go and whether taxpayers are getting a good bang for their buck,” said Sonia Ashe, Advocate with the Illinois Public Interest Research Group (Illinois PIRG). “In a state notorious for corruption, government transparency is a way to restore public confidence.”
“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.”
Illinois is ahead of the pack with a searchable database that provides up-to-date reports from recipients detailing subsidy amounts, job creation and retention data, average salaries, and location. While Illinois is a positive example for others to follow, the report still only awards the state a ‘B’ in its final analysis because of the absence of disclosure within Illinois’ film tax credit program.
“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.”
Show Us the Subsidies rates the reporting practices of 245 key economic development subsidy programs from around the country on the inclusion and access of information such as company-specific dollar amounts, job-creation and the geographic location of subsidized facilities. Each program is rated on a scale of 0 to 100 (with extra credit for including advanced features). Scores for the programs in each state are then averaged to derive a state score.
Some of the report’s key findings include:
- Thirty-seven states disclose on-line the recipients of at least one key subsidy program.
- Since 2005, half a dozen states have enacted legislation mandating subsidy recipient reporting in one or more program, the most recent being Massachusetts. Several other states have moved toward transparency through administrative action alone.
- Of the 245 subsidy programs examined, 104 of the (42%) report recipients on-line. The average program score across the country is 25, but it rises to 59 when ignoring those with no disclosure. Nineteen programs score about 75, including three in Illinois that scored over 100, thanks to extra credit.
- “Our findings tell two different stories,” LeRoy said. “The first is one of the steady spread of transparency across the nation. The other is that some states still inexplicably keep taxpayers completely or partially in the dark.”
“Every dollar spent on subsidies means a dollar less available for programs like schools or a dollar more that citizens must pick up the tab for in higher taxes,” said Sonia. In March Illinois PIRG will again issue a 50-state scorecard on overall state spending transparency, Following the Money: How the 50 States Rate in Providing Online Access to Government Spending Data. -30-