The Indiana Senate Tax and Fiscal Policy Committee unanimously passed legislation Tuesday meant to makes the state’s job-creation efforts more transparent to the general public.
Senate Bill 162, which now moves to the full Senate for consideration, would increase the amount of information made public when the Indiana Economic Development Corp. gives tax breaks and other incentives to companies to move to or expand in Indiana.
“It’s the public’s right to know how their tax dollars are being spent,” said Sen. Mike Delph, R-Carmel.
Under current law, the IEDC and the businesses that receive incentives are not required to release the records pertaining to the number of jobs created or the money handed out.
The incentives are not paid out until actual jobs are created, according to Eric Doden, the IEDC's new CEO.
The bill would require both the agency and the firms to present annual job creation and financial investment information to the public.
Delph said the committee needs to answer one key question: “When a company seeks a public tax break and, in return, tells the state they plan to invest a certain amount of dollars, or create a certain number of jobs, should they be held accountable by routine disclosure of their progress to that which they promised the state?”
But Sen. Gregory Taylor, D-Indianapolis, questioned whether the added transparency would help or hurt the IEDC’s quest to recruit new businesses. Taylor pointed out that a private company’s financial information often falls under the category of trade secrets in the state’s Open Records law for a reason. He said opening this information to the public, including competing businesses and states, could be detrimental to the IEDC’s goals.
Delph responded by saying that Illinois has some of the strongest transparency laws in the country and has still attracted more new facilities and expansions in the last three years than Indiana.
He said the goal is to tie tax dollars and job commitments to what they — the businesses — promised to do in advance.
Doden said the IEDC favors transparency and accountability but doesn’t want to do anything that puts at risk his organization’s ability to bring jobs to Indiana. He does, however, support the bill.
Indiana spends about $142 per capita on corporate subsidies, according to a recent New York Times study, but that's far less than many other states.