Taxpayers should not be paying for millions of dollars in tax breaks to attract companies that do little to boost employment and the economy.
According to New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, they are doing just that. His recently released report shows that statewide, taxpayers pay more than $2,500 in tax breaks for the average job created under arrangements with an industrial development agency.
But neither should local politicians be using the situation to try to make political hay, as most certainly a trio of county Democrats are doing.
DiNapoli says there is not much of a connection between job growth and the $500 million in tax breaks provided by IDAs operating in municipalities statewide, including right here in Chautauqua and Cattaraugus counties. He reported more than 4,000 businesses were given the tax breaks, but that IDAs realized 22,000 fewer jobs last year than the year before. The cost to taxpayers to create these jobs went up 9 percent over the previous year, he says.
The comptroller has proposed a bill to require clearly described job goals when a tax break is given, and a specific accounting when the tax break expires. If the jobs promised are not created, local governments would be able to recuperate from the company the taxes that were avoided.
For the record, in 2010, the Chautauqua County IDA had 37 projects, totaling $398 million, with $11.7 million in gross tax exemptions and $11.2 million in payments in lieu of taxes, according to DiNapoli's report. The report indicates that 608 jobs were estimated to be created, 4,012 jobs retained and an estimated net job change of 457.
Knowing a bandwagon when she sees one, Jamestown Democrat Lori Cornell, who is minority leader of the Chautauqua County Legislature, promptly typed out a press release saying she and fellow Democrat Legislators Tom DeJoe of Brocton and Paula DeJoy of Jamestown will ask William Daly, county IDA director, to provide an update to the legislature on job growth through the IDA.
"I don't think there's anyone who would argue that jobs and taxes are the most pressing issues in Chautauqua County," Cornell said.
No. No one would.
Daly welcomes the opportunity to report to the legislature.
"If anyone ever wanted to know what is going on, they can just ask. Our website has all the information as well as the auditor's report," he said.
If anyone doubts the intention of the three legislators, we note they will read their letter to Daly at today's Chautauqua County Legislature meeting. That way, you see, it will be on the record that they asked - and simply asking for information is an important ingredient when making political hay.
In fact, as DiNapoli's report shows, greater accountability and strict guidelines on IDAs statewide are overdue.
Asking for information to which Chautauqua County legislators should have been paying attention all along anyway has nothing to do with that.