Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tax Incentives Deserve More Public Scrutiny

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Tax Incentives Deserve More Public Scrutiny

Article excerpt

Byline: Karen Brune Mathis, Times-Union senior business writer

Tax incentives.

Their controversial use is a debate I've followed for 25 years. Few points have changed.

Whether you support or oppose them, tax incentives to assist business development are a fact of political life across the country, and I doubt we'll see a unilateral disarmament anytime soon.

The discussion is taking place within the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission subcommittee appointed by Mayor John Peyton. The group of business executives will recommend improvements for the city's economic development efforts and the commission, which negotiates corporate tax incentives.

Those deals are done to create jobs and capital investment or to reach other city goals. Now, the deals go from the staff level to an advisory board to the commission to City Council and sometimes to the state.

Committee Chairman Steve Halverson said the group will make three to five "high impact" suggestions to Peyton by Aug. 20.

After 25 years of white papers, community and City Council studies, retreats, summits and almost every JEDC meeting since its creation in 1996, here are some views and suggestions.

-- Anyone negotiating tax incentives deals should realize at all times that this is tax money we're talking about. Our tax dollars. The money we have no choice in giving to the city or the state or the federal government or to other taxing authorities. When a government agency decides to give away those dollars, whether through cash payments, grants, loans, rebates, services or land, the public has a vested interest in, and a right to know, what kind of deal is being struck and how those dollars are being used.

-- The negotiated deals should be made public as soon as possible. There's historically been a push to keep those deals secret to avoid making them public records before city or company officials want. …

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