Saturday, July 30, 2005

More progress in Blue America on energy and corporate accountability

Here are a few posts that remind how Illinois, the bluest state government (is bluest a word?) is leading the way.

Jack Franks' (D-Woodstock) work on corporate accountability has left Illinois as the best state in the Union on ensuring that public dollars spent to subsidize private companies for economic development are disclosed publicly. Here's a quote from Greg LeRoy, author of The Great American Job Scam (buy it here), from this AlterNet interview (a little long so you get the background):

Lakshmi: So what is the "great American job scam"?

Greg LeRoy: It's an intentionally rigged system that enables companies to get huge tax breaks and other taxpayer subsidies by promising good jobs and higher tax revenues -- and then allowing them to fail to deliver and suffer no meaningful consequences.

And this is a system that costs the American tax payers $50 billion a year?

Right, that's the estimated total spending by states and cities.

One of the points you make in the book is that it is very hard to get this data, right? There is no disclosure, with these corporate deals being negotiated behind closed doors. So the very heart of your argument -- that corporations don't deliver on the increased tax revenues, increased jobs, etc that they promise in return for these tax breaks -- is obscured by this lack of disclosure.

People who develop these estimates at the state level are dealing with broad aggregate numbers. It would tell you nothing about any specific company, whether it did or did not create jobs, did or did not generate tax revenue. In most states, we are completely in the dark.

Having said that, 12 states now have some form of annual company-specific disclosure. We're very excited because just recently Illinois, just began reporting data. There are four states now that disclose some of their data on the web and we think Illinois is the best.


That website is here, by the way. It's nice to be the best, right?

Another piece of good news is a biodiesel bill that Representative Feigenholtz and Senator Cullerton worked on that requires almost all local governments in the state to start using a blend of 98% oil diesel fuel and 2% biodiesel fuel has been signed into law by Governor Blagojevich. The bill is HB 112.

A site called Grain Net has a story here.

One complaint: neither Chicago sponsor was mentioned in the story. And my friend Jay who works for both of those legislators put in a ton of work on this legislation, and *he* certainly isn't credited either.

The bill is here. Check out how we started -- we asked for 50% biodiesel at first and funded by a 0.1 cent increase in the gasoline tax. Those two items were shot down rather quickly. But it is good policy to tax gasoline far more than we do. It's in Illinois' economic interest to tax our imports (like gasoline) to make the products we export (like biodiesel) more attractive.

This bill was a unanimous bill, to be fair. I wonder if raising the gasoline tax would get support if the money went to smart Illinois investments like biodiesel.


Anonymous said...

Have you thought of getting university involvement? (eg, business plans put together by business, law, engineering and other schools in the state)

Anonymous said...

This points out a big problem with Jack Franks.

He should be working on ensuring that public dollars are not spent on subsidizing private companies.

Dan Johnson-Weinberger said...

How is this a problem? He worked to minimize wasted public dollars on private corporations.