A new study reveals that Idaho keeps state residents and decision-makers in the dark when it comes to economic incentives offered to businesses.
Good Jobs First, a liberal-leaning think tank devoted to seeking accountability for economic incentives, said in the new report that Idaho ranks dead last in disclosure of corporate handouts.
Out of 500 possible points, Idaho scored zero.
The Gem State joined two other states, Delaware and Kansas, at the bottom of the transparency rankings.
The group, which receives at least some backing from labor unions, believes state residents have a right to know how their tax dollars are being spent.
“Aside from a handful of holdouts, state governments now accept the idea that the public has a right to online data about which companies are receiving taxpayer-funded job subsidies,” said Greg LeRoy, the group’s director.
Since 2007, when the group produced its first transparency evaluation report, the number of states with at least some incentive data has doubled from 23 to 46.
The group knocks Idaho for not posting the data for five programs, including the Hire One Tax Credit, which offsets tax burdens for employers who hire and meet certain pay and benefit rules, and the 3 Percent Investment Tax Credit, which credits employers for certain property purchases.
The group warns that the lack of disclosure shortchanges state residents. “Reasonable people cannot have an informed debate and policymakers cannot watch the store without good job-subsidy data,” the document says.
The Idaho Department of Commerce did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
This isn’t the first time the department and the state have dealt with this sort of problem.
Last year, IdahoReporter.com revealed that a small section of state code allows the state agency to hide its efforts to draw businesses to the state using these tax incentive programs. Specifically, Idaho Code 9-340D(6) exempts records “for the specific purpose of assisting a person to locate, maintain, invest in, or expand business operations in the state of Idaho” from public records requests, a provision inserted into state law in 1999.
Thanks to that code section, the agency was able to deny an IdahoReporter.com records request into how the state lured an energy bar manufacturer to the state. The company involved with the deal, Clif Bar, may receive up to $1.8 million in taxpayer handouts.
State Rep. Paul Romrell, R-St. Anthony, told IdahoReporter.com he “absolutely” supports examining if those records should be exempt.