The public will soon have access to a one-stop web portal for information on tax credits and direct financial assistance the state is offering to help businesses grow and expand in Connecticut. Governor Dannel Malloy at a press conference in Bloomfield said taxpayers have the right to know what their state government is doing to promote economic development and job creation.
“They should have easy access to that information,” Malloy said. “The database will help give citizens a clear picture of where economic assistance is going, how many jobs have been created, and how many have been retained.” During the course of Malloy’s tenure, $475 million was awarded in direct economic aid.
Under executive order number 38, the Department of Economic and Community Development will collaborate with the Department of Revenue Services to create an electronic database by the end of March next year. The DRS will provide information on the number of credits claimed in the previous fiscal year, and those carried forward to offset future tax liabilities. Additionally, it will offer information on the size, type, and location of businesses claiming tax credits.
The initiative was proposed during the last legislative session by Comptroller Kevin Lembo, but it failed to pass when the Senate ran out of time. Lembo said making large data sets available would allow economists to quantify the impact of government investments. “I look forward to working with the governor and all advocates of open government,” he said, “to ensure that Connecticut builds on this measure to make important government data more readily available to all Connecticut residents and ultimately make Connecticut government the most transparent in the country.”
The website, CTOpenForBiz.com, will initially contain an interactive map of the DECD investments statewide. Malloy said that over time, it would include other sources and recipients of government funding.
Catherine Smith, Commissioner of DECD, said the agency would conduct an annual survey on the economic impact and upload an aggregate list on a quarterly basis. “We do ask the companies to self-report,” she said. “But we can triangulate that through the information we get through the Department of Labor, and then, ultimately, if we need to, we can go through the DRS. We do make sure that these numbers are certifiable.”
In March of last year, Smith opposed proposed legislation, H.B. 6566, which called for greater transparency through a similar web portal. She stated in her testimony: “DECD believes that the requirement to disclose the economic benefits derived from each project would create a competitive disadvantage for the state in its negotiations with existing companies within Connecticut and with any new companies that may consider relocating to the state.” However, Smith emphasized that she welcomed the new initiative.
According to Bonnie Stewart, Vice President of Government Affairs at the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, the executive order has overcome the limitations of last year’s proposed bill. “It didn’t take into consideration concerns people would have regarding corporate espionage and the release of proprietary information,” she said. “I think [that the] one year the governor, the DECD, [and] the comptroller have spent on this issue really is reflected in the final result. They’ve done a great balancing job of looking at economic development programs and sharing information that will not harm a company, yet at the same time provide taxpayers with information regarding how successful these job creation or economic opportunity programs are.”
The executive order has drawn some favorable responses. Wade Gibson, Senior Policy Fellow at Connecticut Voices for Children, said greater transparency would help Connecticut taxpayers understand how public subsidies are spurring economic growth and creating jobs for Connecticut families.
The website will also disclose names of companies that have failed to deliver on their promises, and if the DECD has declared them to be in default.
The initiative, highlighting the Malloy administration’s economic development efforts, was put in place ahead of the 2014 election year.