According to the Kansas Department of Revenue, the state gave away $530 million in tax credits in 2015, but there is no easy way to know who received those benefits. Kansas is one of very few states that do not make such records public, arguing that it is confidential taxpayer information.
The lack of disclosure provides no way of analyzing whether corporate tax credits actually work, said Greg Leroy, executive director of the corporate tax break watchdog Good Jobs First. "When the state doesn't disclose anything about outcomes of deals, actual jobs created, actual wages paid, you don't have an honest cost-benefit debate," Leroy said. "To us, that's just irresponsible."
Even lawmakers are in the dark when it comes to who benefits from the tax breaks, which means they are less able to hold recipients accountable:
"Because they're getting government help, corporate welfare, whatever you want to call it ... I think the public has a right to know who's getting that help and whether they're creating jobs or not," said Democratic Rep. Tom Sawyer, a member of the house Tax Committee.
"When we're hard-pressed for revenue, we need to make sure all of these things are working," he said. "Because the ones that aren't working, we need to get rid of."