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Eye On Boise

Commerce chief apologizes, says firm getting tax incentive will be named when deal finalized

Idaho state Commerce Director Jeff Sayer apologized today for promising last week that the first recipient of Idaho’s generous new tax reimbursement incentive would be named at an Economic Development Council meeting today at which the council approved a 25 percent tax break for the firm. “I screwed up,” Sayer told Eye on Boise. “That wasn’t the agreement we made with the company.”

Today’s council approval is only preliminary, Sayer said; if the company accepts the offer for the tax incentive, a final agreement still would have to be negotiated. Once that’s approved, all aspects of the deal would become public, he said. “Today we are respecting the wishes of the company,” he said. “There are going to be situations where we give that approval only to have the company tell us ‘thanks but no thanks, we’ve chosen another state.’” That’s apparently not the case here, however.

“When an agreement is signed and a company does decide to choose Idaho, you’ll see us be completely transparent,” Sayer said. The information will be posted on a Commerce Department website, he said. “All of those details will be on the table.”

The information that Commerce is releasing today about the deal includes a one-page summary that you can read here. It says “Project Sky” is a project to build an aerospace maintenance facility in Ada County that would hire 50 full-time employees in 2015, with benefits, and expand to 100 over the next 12 years, with an average annual wage of $52,000. The council voted today to offer a 25 percent rebate of the firm’s sales, payroll and corporate income taxes for 12 years; the new incentive law allows up to 30 percent for up to 15 years.

Though Commerce decided not to name the airline today, the Boise Weekly reported on Sunday that it is SkyWest. Click below for a full report from AP reporter Kimberlee Kruesi.

Name of Idaho's new tax break applicant withheld 
By KIMBERLEE KRUESI, Associated Press

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — State officials won't release the name of a company applying for Idaho's newest tax break incentive, said Idaho Commerce Jeff Sayer.

Instead, details of the company's proposed project, job descriptions and estimated state tax revenue were discussed in executive session while the Idaho Economic Advisory Council met Tuesday.

Sayer said the company has not yet made a final decision about moving to Idaho.

The council is in charge of approving the state's latest tax rebate incentive that went into effect July 1.

According to the law, a company becomes eligible to receive up to a 30 percent break on its state corporate income, payroll and sales taxes for up to 15 years if it offers 20 new jobs in rural areas or 50 new jobs in urban areas. Those jobs must also pay at least the average annual wage in the county.

Few details were released about the agreement, Sayer referred to the company — identified as an aerospace firm — as "Project Sky." The company is currently looking to relocate to Ada County, where the average wage is roughly $42,000 annually.

The council voted unanimously to offer a 25 percent rebate to the company for 12 years. The break is contingent on the company staying in Idaho for the entire time.

Last week, Sayer told The Spokesman-Review the name of the firm would be released at the council meeting. On Tuesday, however, Sayer said he misspoke and he is now following the company's request to keep the name private.

Sayer said he hoped to be able to release the name of the company in a month, but it was dependent on its acceptance of the state's incentive package.

"We are learning as we go," he said. "But we remain very excited about the interest we've seen so far."

Wayne Hoffman, executive director of the free-market think tank Idaho Freedom Foundation, said the decision by Sayer and the council to remain secretive was the opposite of what was promised when the bill was being debated during this past legislative session.

Hoffman testified against the bill twice before it was eventually signed into law.

"Sayer said all Idahoans will be able to review the policy," he said. "Now they will find out about the deal after it's too late. I am very discouraged by this."

Earlier this year, Boise Mayor Dave Bieter announced that the city — located in Ada County — was being considered as a site for a maintenance building for SkyWest Airlines. The project would bring as many as 100 jobs and $20 million in construction investment.

Boise spokesman Adam Park said he didn't know if SkyWest was the same company being considered for the state tax rebate. SkyWest spokeswoman Marissa Snow said the company was not publicly discussing if it was applying for state tax breaks.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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