In Opposition to Backroom Deals for Private Gain at Public Expense
By David C. Kyler,
Executive Director, Center for a Sustainable Coast
Given current efforts to promote fiscal responsibility in government, it is ironic that a flagrantly
irresponsible public-private partnership bill (HB218) is being promoted in Georgia's General Assembly.
This ill-considered measure would allow arrangements made by local governments and development authorities
with private promoters to be hidden from the public until after sweet-deal contracts are signed.
For many years, government giveaways to corporate players that pit one community against another have been known to be the worst kind of
welfare capitalism, hurting the public instead of helping us. Doubly ironic, if not downright two-faced, is that many of the same politicians
who condemn public funding for social programs targeting the low income are among the first in line to fork over public resources and tax
breaks worth billions to private ventures in the name of economic progress – with no guarantee of results, virtually no accountability,
and little on record to bolster confidence.
In the late 1990's Time Magazine, hardly a radical left-wing journal, ran a revealing series of articles (What Corporate Welfare Costs You)
providing overwhelming evidence that lavish government handouts to corporations rarely produce net benefits for the public. Numerous other
investigations and studies have found much the same thing – a little searching around on the Web produces rafts of compelling proof.
Making it lawful to keep these negotiations secret until after they become legally binding would deprive the public of constitutional control
over the use of public resources -- monetary and otherwise. Such covert operations sponsored in the name of economic development are likely
to turn Georgia’s tax dollars and natural resources into abusive private profits that benefit only a privileged few at the expense of the vast
Corporate welfare and the backroom bargaining that enable it are promoted by those who gain the greatest – namely the most opportunistic segment
of the business sector, including many people in high places who own a piece of the action – and well-meaning but easily misled public officials
who simply don't understand when they are making a fool’s bargain. Passing this bill would deny Georgians basic open- government assurances that
safeguard the public, encouraging special-interest manipulation and misuse of public funds.
As others have said, the need to attract new jobs shouldn’t trump the public’s right to know what is being done with tax money, especially
projects that might adversely affect the quality of life and property value of Georgia citizens. Moreover, I would remind our public officials
that not all jobs are worth creating, and not all employers will be responsible members of our communities unless they are held publicly accountable.
Secret deals made behind closed doors, promoted and legalized by HB218, would work directly against that crucial accountability.