Opinion

Opinion

Editorial: Disclose incentives

Anything related to public funds should be fully transparent.

March 12, 2018

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It’s hard to believe, but Kansas doesn’t require public disclosure of economic development incentives provided to companies.

House Bill 2572 would go a long way toward correcting that lack of transparency. The Kansas House approved the bill Friday by an overwhelming vote of 114-7. State senators should quickly do the same.

The bill would require the Kansas Department of Commerce to set up a publicly accessible database with information on programs that provide benefits of more than $50,000 per year in state or local incentives. The data would include the names and addresses of individuals or entities receiving benefits from the programs, the annual amount of incentives claimed and distributed to each recipient, as well as the criteria used to qualify for receiving incentives and the benchmarks, such as number of jobs created, that the recipient is expected to meet.

For recipients of sales tax and revenue bonds, or STAR bonds, the bill requires disclosure of the names of the principals and officers of each project being financed with those bonds.

The bill would not apply to certain social and domestic tax credits such as the earned income tax credit, food sales tax credits, child and dependent care tax credits or the homestead property tax refund credits. And the bill includes an exception preventing disclosure of information that is confidential under federal law or information that is protected under a confidentiality agreement signed before July 1, 2018.

State and local governments in Kansas give away millions of dollars every year using a wide variety of incentive programs. There’s not anything wrong with that. Incentive programs are important tools for governments to use in encouraging development that drive jobs, attract tourists and enhance communities and the state.

The one thing that all incentive programs have in common is that they affect public funds. Therefore, all such programs should be subject to public scrutiny. House Bill 2572 is a slam dunk and should be approved.

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