State Auditor Report Says Impact Of Vermont's Business Incentives Is Hard To Measure

Jul 19, 2018

A new report from the Office of the Vermont State Auditor says it's nearly impossible to quantify the impact of Vermont's business incentive programs.

The state funds several economic development programs that encourage companies to expand or hire new workers in Vermont. According to the State Auditor's Office, Vermont spends about $14 million a year on such programs and on tourism marketing.

But State Auditor Doug Hoffer said it's difficult to measure the impact of these incentives. He said the state should consider investing in more predictable areas, such as affordable housing.

"If you build affordable housing, you put a boatload of people to work. And you get a hundred-year asset," Hoffer said. "Whereas if you give a company an incentive, they're gonna say 'thank you,' and they may stick around for five years, or they may not."

More from VPR — Can You Prove That Vermont's Main Business Incentive Create Jobs? It's Debatable [Feb. 16]

Agency of Commerce and Community Development Secretary Michael Schirling said he agrees that many factors influence economic development, but said he thinks the state's incentive programs are still important to businesses.

"These things help them to compete and help them ultimately to, in most cases, upscale employees to be able to get a higher wage and for the company to be more productive," Schirling said.

Additionally, Schirling said Vermont spends less on business incentives than a lot of other states do. Still, he said he thinks they are necessary for Vermont to maintain a competitive business climate.

Meanwhile, Hoffer said it's worth at least considering doing away with these programs.

"Well to the extent that my office can't answer the core question, 'How many jobs do they create?', I'd say it's certainly a suitable subject for conversation," Hoffer said.

At the Agency of Commerce, Schirling said for now he's open to talking about improving the programs.