You've heard the old saying about giving away the farm. That's exactly what Utah's doing with its generous, albeit onerous, tax incentive program. Don't get me wrong. It did help the state weather the recession—but at what cost? The Salt Lake Tribune ran a package of stories questioning why the state keeps its tax-incentive data secret. After all, it just handed Amazon the deal of the century. The company will get a $5.6 million rebate for building a warehouse here, promising 1,500 jobs, but only 130 will be required to pay above county average. In 2012, Think Progress criticized Utah's decision to give Goldman Sachs, one of the country's most profitable companies, some $47.3 million for 1,065 jobs. The Pew Center warns that lawmakers often approve incentives without knowing potential costs, and Utah's hidden data doesn't help. With tax dollars flowing liberally to businesses, it's no wonder there's an initiative to raise taxes for schools.
It must have hit them upside the head when state Treasurer David Damschen scrutinized some pretty nice subsidies to rural counties. And, of course, the subsidies were to help out the state's extractive industries—you know, coal, oil and such. Damschen, a board member of the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition, questioned the legality of using Permanent Community Impact Fund money for these rural projects, and criticized the lack of transparency, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. Indeed, rural Utah is at a disadvantage economically. It hasn't faced the cruel reality of the failing extractive industry. Apparently, neither has the federal government. The Bureau of Land Management is considering allowing drilling in Recapture Canyon, famed for the chest-pounding ATV protest and rich in Native American artifacts.
Down With History
There they go. Four historic structures in what expert Allen Roberts calls Murray's Temple Square. Since 2011, the city has allowed demolition of historic buildings if the project added value to the tax base, the Trib reported. Can you say development? That is the byword of the day. Preservation has always been a hard sell in Utah, where private property rights reign supreme. While Roberts said this wouldn't happen in Salt Lake City, it actually did. Among them were the Salt Lake Temple Annex, the Gardo House and—perhaps most significantly—Louis Sullivan's Dooly Building, demolished in 1964. Utah is rich with history, much of which lies in its architecture. It's too bad not enough people seem to care.