Lawmakers question state economic incentive grants - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

Lawmakers question state economic incentive grants

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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) -

They helped bring Lincoln to Richmond and helped keep the Redskins corporate headquarters in Northern Virginia, but State lawmakers want to know if the state's multi-million dollar incentive grants are doing enough.

$4 million went to the Redskins and $1 million went to the producers of Lincoln. Your tax dollars were spent recently on two very high-profile clients. State lawmakers discussed Tuesday whether it's all worth it.

"I do think we need to figure out: Do we really need to do these things?" asked Del. Jimmie Massie (R-Henrico).

The state's audit and review commission (JLARC) looked at ten years worth of grants, of which the Redskins and Lincoln deals were a very small part, and told lawmakers that 3,400 grants were awarded, totaling more than $700 million. While most recipients met their negotiated goals, the broader impact was uncertain.

"We also found that the majority of projects that received an award from Virginia's programs are unlikely to have a high economic impact," said Ellen Miller, JLARC project leader.

Lawmakers seemed split on what to do with these grants moving forward. While one questioned whether they're even necessary, another wondered what could be done to make them easier to get.

"It was such a flipping nightmare to come to Virginia and try to figure out what the heck was available for these guys," said Del. David Albo (R-Fairfax).

"These guys" being a reference to another company, which, like Rolls Royce or Qimonda, for example, would've been interested in a financial incentive. Despite the grants, Qimonda went broke in 2009 and Rolls Royce was said to be behind schedule for creating jobs.

"Because of economic conditions that have impacted the aircraft industry," explained Miller.

Still, the commission found that, largely, economic grants have a positive impact on Virginia's economy and revenue, even though the grants swayed roughly one out of every 10 business decisions.

The governor and other top leaders have said the economic incentives keep Virginia competitive with other states when it comes to attracting big business and new jobs.

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