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Firms that get tax breaks must be held accountable

As an Amherst resident, I’m very tired of my town’s industrial development agency treating local taxpayers like an ATM in order to hand out public money to big corporations.

The most recent example is the $4.5 million in tax breaks the state and the Amherst IDA gave to PHH Mortgage Corp. in 2012. The company promised to retain 400 jobs and create 400 new ones in order to get this deal. Instead of living up to the agreement, PHH recently announced it will be laying off 135 local workers.

Will the Amherst IDA hold PHH accountable? Will the IDA make the company give back the taxpayer benefits it has received? Are there any penalties imposed for not keeping its end of the bargain, beyond returning our tax money? Don’t hold your breath!

This is another in a long line of bad deals the Amherst IDA has made, on behalf of local taxpayers, but a good deal for PHH. It got $4.5 million for nothing. The Amherst IDA benefits as well; it collects a fee from every deal it makes. The fee pays staffers’ salaries, giving them an incentive to approve more corporate subsidy deals.

Our tax money could be going toward improving our community. Instead, it’s going to line the pockets of PHH executives and Amherst IDA staff. Too many IDAs are enabling corporations to swindle taxpayers. It’s time for this to stop. Companies should not be able to take taxpayer dollars if they don’t live up to the subsidy agreement.

Our state legislators need to take action to build accountability measures into the “industrial” development system to prevent IDAs and corporations from using taxpayers like ATMs. I wonder how a mortgage corporation can be called industrial?

Evelyn Malone

Amherst