published Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Gov. Bill Haslam signs bill allowing cash grants to attract businesses

NASHVILLE — Gov. Bill Haslam has signed an administration measure that turns state efforts to attract companies more toward outright cash grants instead of tax incentives in some cases.

The new law lets the administration provide the state’s FastTrack grants for relocation, retrofitting, office upgrades or temporary space for companies making investments in Tennessee.

The current program is limited to job training and infrastructure improvements. Haslam’s bill passed the Senate on a 29-1 vote in April and the House approved it on a 92-0 vote.

According to a legislative analysis, Tennessee appropriated $217.5 million in Fast Track grants over the past three budget cycles. The new budget that takes effect July 1 includes another $80 million.

State Economic and Community Development officials say the cash grants are simpler for companies to understand than tax credits and the expenditures more transparent to lawmakers and the public.

Haslam was forced to abandon a companion bill that allowed the state to seek more detailed information from companies. Critics objected to provisions that kept secret information about individual ownership interests in companies seeking millions of dollars in taxpayer-funded grants.

The governor and Economic and Community Development Commissioner Bill Hagerty unsuccessfully argued the state currently does not have access to the information. Having it would help the state make sounder investment decisions.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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