Keep those incentives

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Tinkering with incentives is playing with fire

By Sherry Robinson

Job creation has been the Holy Grail for as long as I’ve been writing in New Mexico – 35 years, and one byproduct of our long struggle to spin straw into gold is the economic development incentive.

We have dozens of tax breaks and gimmees to lure companies. Even in good times they’ve drawn criticism, but now, as the state attempts to balance the books, and candidates cast about for campaign fodder, there are new calls to examine their use and the public’s return on investment.

It’s a dandy idea, but we’ve heard it before.

The answer in the past and the answer now is to establish and maintain a credible system of accountability, but we’ve never been willing to spend the money. In the last session, lawmakers passed and the governor signed a bill that requires the state to track and report cost, return and job creation of new incentives, but presently agencies either don’t have the information or can’t divulge it. And the bill was unfunded.

If we got such a system,  companies receiving incentives would be required to do a fair amount of reporting. But some candidates and lawmakers want to get government off the backs of business, and historically, elected officials of both parties have been reluctant to ruffle the feathers of the golden geese.

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