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Report Finds Wyoming Needs More ‘Money-Back Guarantees’

January 19, 2012

CASPER, Wyo. - Wyoming isn't demanding enough when it comes to making sure taxpayer-funded economic development subsidies for businesses actually create good-paying jobs. That finding is in a new report from Good Jobs First that makes the point that most other states have systems in place similar to "money-back guarantees."

Report author Philip Mattera, research director at Good Jobs First, says there is strong public demand for accountability.

"Taxpayers have a right to demand both strong performance requirements and aggressive enforcement. When a company is given subsidies without any strings attached, that is a handout, rather than economic development."

Wyoming came in 45th. States were graded on requirements for quality job creation, as well as independent verification of subsidy performance and whether or not penalties are levied when programs do not perform as promised.

Dan Neal, executive director of the Equality State Policy Center, says subsidies can play a positive economic role, and tracking the hard numbers is the responsible way to ensure taxpayer money is well spent.

"If you have these benchmarks and someone doesn't perform, then you can say, 'Well, we want some of our money back.' I know in some cases, some states have been able to get quite a bit of that money back."

As Neal has noted before, the state has spent millions on the refining industry by eliminating the sales tax on manufacturing equipment - yet no jobs were created. In fact, he says, the Cheyenne refinery cut its workforce and paid extra dividends to stockholders while enjoying the tax break. Vermont, North Carolina and Nevada were listed as among the best in terms of enforcement of job-creation and job-quality requirements.

The full report, "Money-Back Guarantees for Taxpayers," is at www.GoodJobsFirst.org.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - WY