Report faults N.H. tax credit transparency

New Hampshire has received a near-failing grade in a national report that grades states on how well they disclose the economic development developments subsidies they offer. The state, which received a D-, was dinged major points because it does not have a comprehensive database that lists all state and local tax breaks, cash grants and other subsidies that businesses can receive. New Hampshire was not the only state to receive bad marks. Thirteen states, as well as Washington, D.C., received a failing grade for having no online disclosure of any of its subsidy programs, and 24 other states received a D+, D or D-. Illinois brought home top grades with a B. Of New Hampshire’s four key subsidy programs, only two disclose their recipients online, according to the findings of the report, “Show Us The Subsidies.” Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First, a nonprofit research center in Washington, D.C. that released the report, said its goal was to ensure that taxpayer-funded economic development spending “be fair and transparent.” New Hampshire’s Job Training Fund, which grants eligible businesses up to 50 percent of the costs associated with training employees, had the state’s highest score for recipient disclosure. Its website lists the names of businesses receiving the grant, when it was won, what their match was, how many trainees they had, and the type of training it supported. Still, the site lost 51 points out of 100 for not disclosing such information as payroll outcomes and the street address of participating businesses, despite including the town or city where the business is located. “How can that get a 50 percent? They don’t know where to look for the information,” said Steve Boucher, communications and legislative director for the New Hampshire Division of Economic Development, which offers the incentive. “Every company that received the funds is on the site.” The report found that the other state subsidy program listing its recipients online is the Tax Credit Program, which gives businesses a 75 percent break on donations made to approved nonprofits and economic development organizations. The Community Development Finance Authority website lists the companies that participated in the tax credit program in 2009, but lost points for not disclosing information like where the businesses are located or the value of the subsidies. Kevin Flynn, director of communications for the CDFA, said the agency also lost points for not disclosing information like job creation, but he said that’s something that doesn’t apply to the tax credit program, which focuses on community development. The CDFA website, which lists the projects that received funding through the tax credit program and the amount they received, is currently being redesigned for easier navigation and simpler access to information about the credit, said Flynn. “We feel it’s very important to be transparent about the money that is allocated to the different nonprofits that we have,” said Flynn. The two other subsidy programs listed in the report – the Economic Revitalization Zone tax credits and the Research and Development tax credit – received a zero for having no online disclosure. With the Economic Revitalization Zone Tax Credits, “we definitely keep track of the information,” said Boucher. His agency’s NH Economy website does maintain a list of zones that have been approved through the Economic Revitalization Zone program, including information about the site location, its approval date and contact information for each. — KATHLEEN CALLAHAN/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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