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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Audit Finds More Transparency Needed For Oregon's Economic Incentives

Chris Lehman
Northwest News Network

Oregon's agency devoted to economic development should provide more transparency about how its incentives are being used. That's one of the findings of an audit of Business Oregon released Monday by the Oregon Secretary of State's office.

Business Oregon is charged with shaping the state's economic development strategy. It also helps divvy up hundreds of millions of dollars in financial incentives, mostly in the form of property tax exemptions made possible by state law.

The audit said those programs are, on the whole, responsible for creating jobs. But auditors said the agency does not routinely evaluate and document the return on investment of those programs.

In a response, Business Oregon Director Chris Harder said the agency is taking steps to improve transparency. But Harder disagreed with the audit's conclusion that job creation and income tax paid by new employees are the only ways to measure the success of an economic incentive program.