Accessibility of Public Records Relating to Oregon’s Economic Development Tax Expenditures

Source: Jon Bartholomew, OSPIRG, March 14, 2011

The ability to see how government uses public resources is fundamental to democracy. Transparency in government spending checks corruption, bolsters public confidence, and promotes fiscal responsibility.

While the state is making strides in transparency within other areas of tax spending, Oregon’s transparency of economic development tax incentive programs is poor. Oregon’s Tax Expenditure Report1 (TER) does provide broad overviews of each of these programs, at least enough for the public to know that about $600 million per biennium flows to corporations through economic development tax breaks. However, the TER doesn’t allow taxpayers to see which companies received tax breaks, how much they received in tax dollars, and what the companies delivered in exchange for taxpayers’ investment (such as new jobs created). This information is essential to holding these programs accountable for results.

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