On silence in TN incentive payments

Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration is reluctant to disclose the incentive payments to businesses for locating in Tennessee, observes Jack McElroy, but not reluctant as TVA, which flatly refuses to make its payments public.

Take the announcement that Advanced Munitions International will build an ammo factory and move its headquarters to Alcoa. Gov. Bill Haslam and Randy Boyd, commissioner of economic and community development, were on hand to tout the 605 jobs being created. But when asked what the citizenry of Tennessee was contributing to the deal, Boyd said the details were still being finalized, “so, there is not anything I can say.”

Actually, the deal is done. A deed already has transferred 269 acres from the Industrial Development Board of Blount County to AMI. Blount Countians paid $2.3 million for the land back in 1998.

Questioned further, Boyd clarified that it’s only the state’s share of the AMI incentives that still are being worked out.

“We’ve agreed in principle,” he said, “but they are dotting the ‘I’s and crossing the ‘T’s. Then we have to have the State Funding Board approve it. But until that happens, we don’t disclose it.”

So when will that be? John Dunn, spokesman for the state Comptroller, said the State Funding Board is scheduled to meet Nov. 13 and 19 but the AMI incentives aren’t on the agenda.

“Our staff is not aware of this project at this time,” he said.

…Haslam’s administration prefers to focus these announcements on the jobs being created and the adroitness of the government’s deal-making without mentioning what taxpayers have brought to the table. Other administrations, such as those of mayors Madeline Rogero and Tim Burchett, are more willing to share the details up front.

Eventually the cost to state coffers will become public, but only after the fanfare has faded and attention has turned elsewhere.

Still, that’s better than what the Tennessee Valley Authority does. The federal agency refuses to reveal the subsidies it bestows on private businesses even after deals are done. TVA insists its ability to compete would be compromised if that sensitive info leaked out.

But, oops. Loose-lipped Rogero spilled the beans on TVA’s contribution to the Regal deal, too, letting slip that it added $80,000 in “utility money” to the pool.

We’ll see if the $11-billion-a-year utility can survive the disclosure of that secret to the public.