At year’s end, state economic development officials announced 2012 had been a record-setting year for job creation. But Hoosiers have every reason to be skeptical of a promised 27,600 jobs. The Indiana Economic Development Corporation has excelled at announcing jobs; it has faltered in delivering them.
Carbon Motors, Really Cool Foods, Plasmatronics, Tell City Marine and Getrag Transmission Manufacturing represent a handful of the grand announcements that produced nothing but disappointment or, in some cases, lawsuits over unmet obligations – including loans and grants by local economic development groups. An Indianapolis TV station, WTHR, scrutinized the IEDC’s job claims in 2010 and found that thousands of the jobs announced never materialized.
Senate Bill 162, co-sponsored by Senate Republicans Mike Delph of Carmel and Jim Banks of Columbia City, followed the investigation. Approved by a 49-1 vote in the Senate and a 98-0 vote in the House, the measure awaits Gov. Mike Pence’s signature. It will add welcome transparency to reporting requirements of the quasi-public IEDC, which awards more than $100 million a year in tax dollars to companies promising to create jobs in Indiana.
The bill requires the economic development corporation’s annual incentives and compliance report to include:
The aggregate number of jobs created, not just those projected.
The amounts actually paid in grants and loans to recipients, instead of the amount each recipient is approved to receive.
Figures on projects dating to 2005, instead of the current reporting date of 2007.
The IEDC also will be required to report promptly, instead of holding the release of incentive agreements on the grounds that another deal is pending.
When a public benefit is given to a private company, that lack of transparency is unacceptable, Delph said. The public deserves to know if publicly administered and funded economic-development incentives are accomplishing what the providers and recipients say they will.
Unfortunately, the bill was weakened in the legislative process, with the requirement removed for IEDC to disclose specific job-creation numbers for each company receiving tax dollars.
An unsuccessful amendment would have added transparency in another state agency where it appears to be lacking. A recent Indianapolis Star investigation has raised serious questions about land acquisition in the Indiana Department of Transportation. The same effort that went into shining light on the IEDC should produce legislation in the next session.
Delph, to his credit, has been a champion for transparency this session. On Monday, he voted against a troublesome bill that would have allowed state and local agencies to charge up to $20 an hour to compile public information requests. House Bill 1175 easily passed the House in February, but deadlocked in the Senate.
In voting against the measure, Delph said the bill would have a chilling effect on Hoosiers’ constitutional right to petition their government for grievances – and information.
Where tax dollars are concerned, lawmakers would be wise to follow Delph’s lead in promoting transparency and public access.
When promises are broken or the public trust betrayed, voters will remember on Election Day.