Last week's disappointing job numbers showed painfully slow progress in emerging from this Great Recession. All the more reason, then, for New York to spend its job-creation dollars where they will get the most bang.
Sadly, a report from State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli reveals that one of New York's premier efforts - the industrial development agency tax forgiveness program - is still a morass. Companies received $645 million in tax breaks in 2008, but many are reluctant to prove they created jobs in return.
The comptroller rightly recommends a series of reforms that will make the numbers plainer - including his plan to match data with the state Department of Labor and the Department of Taxation and Finance. But companies shouldn't be running from scrutiny. The missing numbers raise suspicion that IDA largesse too often is the result of political muscle, not a strict cost-benefit accounting. It would be far better to improve the overall business climate - benefiting all companies - than to keep pouring money into a lotto-like system.
IDAs should also be required to give tax breaks only for jobs newly created in New York - not for companies lured from the next county over.
When people work, they pay taxes. Balancing that against the cost of tax-forgiveness programs, New York must come out with a net gain. We need better oversight to know if that's the case. hN