Nebraska fails in transparency of business incentives

By Deena Winter | Nebraska Watchdog

LINCOLN, Neb. – A watchdog group has given Nebraska failing marks again for not being transparent about the money it doles out in the name of economic development.

CORPORATE WELFARE: Nebraska has again gotten low marks for not being transparent enough about its programs that dole out dollars in the name of economic development.

Good Jobs First, a nonprofit research center, released a report called “Show us the Subsidized Jobs,” its third report on transparency since 2007. The report rates state programs on how well they disclose online information such as company-specific deals, costs, benefits and project details.

Nebraska ranked 37th out of the 50 states and D.C., scoring a 10 out of 100. The average score nationwide was 21. Nebraska got low scores for not disclosing the actual number of jobs created by incentives and failing to disclose enforcement actions, project information and wage rates.

“With most programs still failing to disclose actual jobs created or wages paid, taxpayers cannot even begin to weigh costs versus benefits,” said Good Jobs First Executive Director Greg LeRoy in a press release. “Taxpayers have the right to know exactly what they are getting in return for their economic development investments.”

Nebraska’s economic development programs have come under scrutiny in recent years, with various audits urging lawmakers to tighten up the programs and establish clear goals so they can determine whether the programs’ benefits outweigh the costs. Two of Nebraska’s programs have no limits on costs.

A 2012 incentives report said about 7,000 jobs were created by the Nebraska Advantage Act since 2006 at a cost of $412 million in tax credits. That works out to paying about $59,000 per job, not counting property tax exemptions available to companies.

A 2012 special report by Nebraska Watchdog found the state’s own data shows most jobs subsidized by Nebraska Advantage Act would have been created with or without the incentives.

Contact Deena Winter at deena@nebraskawatchdog.org. Follow Deena on Twitter at @DeenaNEWatchdog

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Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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