What if Texas blew billions of dollars because someone misread an obscure business report 15 years ago?
n March, the Observer took a close look at the state’s largest corporate welfare program, the Texas Economic Development Act, which is meant to attract new business to the state by offering companies big breaks on their property tax bills. The program, often called “Chapter 313” after its place in the tax code, was born 15 years ago out of a fear that Texas was losing its competitive edge to Louisiana, Arizona and other states with generous incentives. As we wrote in March:For years, Texas had been a perennial finalist for the Governor’s Cup, awarded annually by Site Selection magazine to the state with the year’s most million-dollar development projects. But by 2000, Texas had dropped to 37th.That was a key piece of evidence used by proponents of the program to sway lawmakers. First cited at a committee meeting at the Capitol in 2001, the No. 37 ranking was later repeated by lawmakers, nonprofits and media outlets (including this one) dozens of times.
But according to a new Senate committee report, that number was wildly inaccurate.
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick included a review of the Chapter 313 program in his interim charges for the Legislature, and the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Economic Development released its findings in mid-November. The report is critical of the program for a number of reasons, but its greatest revelation is that Chapter 313 was initially sold to lawmakers on a lie — or, at least, a typo.
“The unavoidable conclusion,” according to the report, “is that the case for passing the largest economic development incentive program in the State’s history may have been based on the fear incited by a magazine’s typographical error.”
Of course, spending taxpayer money on rich people is a part of Texas' political DNA.
I wonder how much we would have to pay Mexico to take it back.