House speaker continues quest for jobs data

June 30, 2010

House Speaker Pat Bauer on Wednesday renewed his plea for public records tracking the state's job-creation efforts, saying the Indiana Economic Development Corp.'s response to his earlier request was incomplete.

Bauer credited IEDC for beginning to lift the “veil of secrecy” he says is obscuring the number of jobs the state actually has created, but he wants more.

“There’s no question this is a good start,” he told IBJ, but “they lit a candle where we would like the lights turned on completely.”

In an e-mailed statement, Indiana Secretary of Commerce Mitch Roob defended the current administration's practices.

“Since his first day in office, Gov. Daniels has implemented policies that make Indiana the most attractive place for business growth," he wrote. "The speaker wants to kill jobs with heavy-handed business regulation. We've worked too hard to let that happen."

The rift between Bauer and IEDC began earlier this month, when the Democrat from South Bend sent Roob, its CEO, a letter formally requesting that IEDC disclose public records about promises that companies gave the state in exchange for job-creation incentives.

Roob replied with a three-page letter of his own on June 22, pointing out that 42 projects originated since 1994 ended up in non-compliance status. As a result, Roob  wrote, IEDC has pursued $10.5 million in collections from those companies.

But Bauer asserted that the non-compliant projects relate to just three of 18 tax incentives or grants available to companies, including the popular Economic Development for a Growing Economy, or EDGE, tax credit.

He now wants IEDC to provide records for the other 15 incentives and the total amount of tax dollars the state is pursuing from companies that failed to meet job-creation goals tied to those funds.

“Secrecy is not necessary in order to create jobs,” said Bauer, who may call for harsher penalties next legislative session for companies that don’t meet the terms of their deals.

According to Roob’s letter, IEDC determines a company is not in compliance when it ceases operations, relocates its project outside the state, reduces employment levels after receiving state incentives, or otherwise defaults under a material term of the agreement.

Bauer, however, argued that Indianapolis-based Fusion Alliance Inc. received a second chance to receive tax credits after creating just 18 of the 110 jobs it promised in 2008. Fusion, the city's largest software developer, announced June 22 that it would create 107 jobs  by 2014. IEDC is offering up to $1.5 million in performance-based tax credits.

Both Fusion and IEDC maintained the company did not receive any tax credits tied to the jobs it promised in 2008. Nevertheless, Bauer said Fusion was not included among the non-compliant companies mentioned in Roob’s report to him.

Bauer also chided Roob for mentioning in his letter that Indiana had added private-sector jobs faster than any state in the nation.

After researching the claim, Bauer said he found that, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, five states had created more jobs than in Indiana since December: California, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas.

“Hoosiers are disenchanted by claims of job successes that don’t occur, and I believe we are equally as dissatisfied in hearing about slanted job growth claims when there are over 310,000 people out of work in our state,” Bauer wrote to Roob in response to the June 22 letter.

Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, weighed in on the tussle at a news conference he called on Wednesday.

He questioned Bauer’s criticism and pointed to a June 19 Wall Street Journal article that said Indiana indeed has created the most private-sector jobs in the nation.

“The governor is to be commended,” Kenley said, “and I give him an ‘A’ for his efforts.”

Separately, IEDC issued a news release Wednesday morning touting its accomplishments in the first half of the year, saying it has won 93 commitments from companies promising a record 13,757 new jobs.



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