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Washington state ranked No. 14 for economic development transparency

From: The Center Square

Washington state ranked 14th in the country among the 50 states and the District of Columbia in terms of economic development transparency, according to a new report from Washington, D.C.-based Good Jobs First, a public policy resource center.

Washington received credit for the transparency of its programs exempting data centers from paying sales and use taxes on electricity, computers, building materials, and software. On a scale of 0 to 100, Washington scored 38 points for its data center sales and use tax exemption. Washington scored 38 points on its aerospace preproduction expenditures B&O tax, and 47 points for its Job Skills Program.

The Evergreen state was dinged for having no recipient data online regarding refundable or transferable tax credits to film and/or television productions, scoring zero points in that category.

“The Washington Department of Revenue posts basic recipient-level data (company names, subsidy payments, and job/wage data) on dozens of tax-based subsidies,” the report said. “On the good side, the data is (mostly) easy to access and use.”

Washington ranked 30.8 overall on a 100-point scoring system, which is higher than the national average of 22. That’s a drop of three points for Washington since a similar Good Jobs First study in 2014.

Based on evaluating 250 major state-level economic development programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Good Jobs First found that 154 of them disclose which companies receive public support, while 96 do not. Good Jobs First found that 48 states and the District of Columbia provide some degree of recipient disclosure.

“To be sure, transparency is not the same as effectiveness or accountability,” the report notes. “Nor do we have the means here to verify the accuracy of what states post online. But without company specific, deal-specific disclosure, it’s difficult for the public to get at even the most basic return on investment, accountability or equity questions.”

The report goes on to ask, “Which companies are recipients? What kinds of companies are they? How much money did they receive? Are they delivering on the number of jobs promised? Constituents deserve to have answers to these questions. Without them, they cannot have an informed debate and policymakers cannot properly monitor programs or deals.”

Nevada was the top-ranked state on the list. Its 63.6-point score was a dozen points better than runner-up Connecticut (51.6 points). Illinois’ 46.4 points earned it third place on the list.

Alabama and Georgia brought up the rear in scoring zero points each.