In a unanimous vote Wednesday, the House approved a bill requiring the state to develop a searchable database of tax credits and forgivable loan programs the state has offered to companies promising to create jobs in Connecticut.
The measure was originally proposed by state Comptroller Kevin Lembo earlier this year. The House made some changes to the legislation before passing it, eliminating some information from the database to ensure the privacy of companies participating in state programs and their employees. Tax information available through the database will be more general than the business specific reporting included in the original bill.
The proposal will still need to be approved by the Senate. Lembo was talking with senators outside the chamber after the bill’s passage through the House Wednesday. He said his bill was changed by compromises throughout the legislative process, but he said it was still a step in the direction of more transparent government accounting.
“At a minimum this is better transparency in state finances and on its face that’s a good reason to pass the bill,” he said.
The bill’s fiscal note anticipates it will cost the state Department of Economic and Community Development about $50,000 in its first year to develop the searchable database.
Rep. Roland Lemar, D-New Haven, said the goal was to ensure that lawmakers and Connecticut residents can easily assess the details of tax credits and economic assistance programs the state has offered businesses in an effort to grow jobs.
Lembo proposed the legislation because he believed residents should know how their tax dollars are being invested, according to Lemar.
“What that business entails, how it extends, how it impacts them, and what the end result of that assistance has meant for the state of Connecticut,” Lemar said. “Has it grown jobs? Has it provided a benefit to our state? Has it lead to a better place for our residents to live, work and raise a family? That’s the goal of this legislation.”
Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, said he supported the proposal because he hoped it would help determine the effectiveness of Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s First Five program. He said he did not think the state was getting “the best bang for our buck” on Malloy’s job creation program, which has been expanded to the first 15 companies willing to create more than 200 jobs over a specified period of time. .
“I’ve certainly had constituents approach me and have been concerned about what types of impact, what types of jobs we’re actually creating, and some of the money that’s gone out the door has been significant. I think frankly this is an important tool to give the public… the opportunity to see where these dollars are going,” he said.
Although he voted for the bill, House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero questioned the necessity for the legislation, saying that state agencies were already free to establish such a database without a mandate from lawmakers. He said the bill was evidence that state government could not adapt quickly on its own.
“You would think, if you were sitting at home watching these proceedings, that but for this bill government can not communicate with each other… It can’t come up with new ideas unless we as a legislature put a bill through a zillion committees and debate for a zillion minutes and go from one chamber to the other to the other chamber and signed by the governor. Is that what we’ve come to?” he said.
Rep. Patricia Widlitz, co-chairwoman of the Finance Committee, said the new database will help keep the public informed on the impact of corporate assistance programs.
“The goal here is to allow the public a place to go to see how their tax dollars are working. To see what these tax credits are doing in the area of performance. Are they really doing what they’re intended to do and is this money being spent wisely,” she said.