State Chamber of Commerce Favors Clawbacks, Job Quality Standards, Enforcement

Image_Maryland_Money

Last Friday, at the Maryland Senate’s Budget and Taxation Committee hearing, representatives from the Maryland Chamber of Commerce endorsed cornerstone Good Jobs First reforms. This includes attaching strings to taxpayer-funded economic development deals such as money-back clawbacks when companies receiving taxpayer money fall short. The Maryland Chamber even implied that these reforms should apply not only to economic development subsidy deals, but also public-private partnerships (sometimes called P3’s) such as the concessions operations at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI).

In our two recent 50-state report card studies, Money for Something and Money-back Guarantees for Taxpayers, we documented the growth of these reforms across the states. It has become common practice for state economic development agencies to incorporate clawbacks and job quality standards into deals, though many states still don’t do enough or apply standards unevenly. But as the Maryland Chamber said, it’s a big problem when these agreements aren’t being adequately enforced to protect taxpayer money.

Below is a transcribed passage of the audio from the Maryland Senate’s Budget and Taxation Committee hearing. We think it serves to show the strong support for reforms like job quality standards, clawbacks and enforcement of clawbacks, even from powerful business interests. This portion of the hearing occurs around 1:05 in the recording.

Senator Richard S. Madaleno, Jr. (D-18th District): While the vice chairman raised many of the issues that I wanted to raise, I just wanted to be clear that you are saying Mr. Palmer, you are saying that there are times when in a contractual relationship between the government and a business we can put strings…

Matthew Palmer, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs at the Maryland Chamber of Commerce: Absolutely.

Senator Madaleno: This is how we’re going to treat your workers.

Mr. Palmer: Right.

Senator Madaleno: And in the case when they don’t and they violate that we can have clawback? You support that structure?

Mr. Palmer: Absolutely. And I think that’s important. As [the ABC representative] talked about with these P3’s, the flexibility of whether it’s [the Department of Business and Economic Development (DBED)] or other places actually putting that into contracts, you know, putting those strings as you said, with those companies and being able to, when they don’t meet those, claw that money back. Say OK, you didn’t meet your needs. I think that is absolutely appropriate and they should be held to it. I think that’s the problem. And unfortunately, it seems to me, in some of these instances [as we have heard from the testimonies of  workers at BWI airport, Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and Hyatt], some of those companies were not held to those standards. So I think that’s a big problem.