Sunlight weekly Round-up: Of Tax breaks and Transparency

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In an interview with Newsweek, former U.S. President, Bill Clinton suggested lowering corporate tax rates as one of the ways of creating more jobs and solving the country’s current debt problem. He added that this should be done together with a reduction of loopholes that cause unfair disparities among corporations. Here at Sunlight, Ryan recently used Influence Explorer, to connect the dots between tax breaks and money in politics. The former president’s suggestion may have good intentions but left and unchecked, tax breaks to corporations which end up donating huge sums of money to political candidates, can determine the type of government we get.

  • Details on the value of tax breaks in Oregon will now soon be available for the public to see. The state’s governor, John Kitzhaber has signed into law, House Bill 2825, which will require all information on tax breaks given to business — including their names, addresses and the reasons why they are receiving the breaks — to be posted on this website. According to Mark Robyn, the breaks have been likened by policy wonks, to government spending even though they receive less oversight. Nonetheless, taxpayer watchdog and consumer advocacy groups are welcoming the transparency news on Tax Policy blog.
  • Politics of disclosure is at play in Minnesota. A conflict on what should and should not be disclosed is brewing between the Governor’s office and the legislature. Open government award recipient Rich Neumeister, who is certain there is secrecy in both state and local government, is making some suggestions: make data public; including all communication between the governor and the legislature. A legislature expert himself, Neumeister is well aware that the legislature may not be under the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, but it is still answerable to the public and should therefore be transparent. Details on Open Secrets.
  • A bill sponsored by Michael T. Morley is causing a stir in Utah. HB 220 – also commonly known as “We are a Republic” – is according to Curt Bentley, the latest form of contempt for the ordinary voter. Citing the previous disregard of public records laws with the introduction of HB 477, Bentley critics Utah’s caucus system as one that does not prevent indifference towards voters but instead renders them powerless to influence election results. Read more as he writes about the thin line between republicanism and guardianship and what democracy has to do with both, on Utah Political Summary
  • Stacey Kalberman, Georgia’s Ethics Commission executive secretary, revealed earlier that she was being forced to resign in order to stop an ethics investigation of Gov. Nathan Deal. Now, journalism award winner, Jay Bookman, shares the details of the Commission’s meeting that led up to the former executive’s announcement of her resignation. Bookman adds that the pleasantries between the Ethics Commission and Kalberman only created more suspicion from the members of the press who feel that the Commission is not being transparent about the governor’s investigation. Jay Bookman has more.
  • Washington state Governor Christine Gregoire will now continue to withhold records from a public records request under the rubric of the executive privilege. In a superior court ruling, over a lawsuit filed by the Freedom Foundation against the governor, a judge ruled that the executive privilege, that exempts the governor from disclosing public records, does apply. Dennis Box blogs that a follow up ruling to decide if the executive privilege is indeed part of 300-plus recognized statutory exemptions in the Public Records Act, has been scheduled. More on News Notes.
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