Lembo hopeful incentive transparency effort can be revived

State Comptroller Kevin P. Lembo’s bid to enhance transparency in state economic assistance to businesses fell short when the 2013 General Assembly session adjourned Wednesday.

But the state’s chief fiscal watchdog said Friday he remains hopeful that some of the mandates he sought could be incorporated voluntarily into economic assistance programs.

“My next set of conversations needs to be with (Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s) administration,” Lembo said, adding that it’s too soon to say whether he’ll try to reintroduce legislation when the 2014 session begins next February. “We’ll see where we are.”

Lembo, a Democrat, had proposed requiring the state to establish a publicly searchable database for economic assistance and tax credit programs. It would have allowed the public to review both the types of assistance provided, and how well companies met performance standards linked to them, such as numbers of jobs created.

“When hundreds of millions of dollars are spent or foregone every year to promote economic development, the public has a right to know how these transactions are performing,” Lembo said. “Most importantly, it would have compelled, by law, that state government disclose important details about the investment of taxpayer dollars — rather than rely on the discretion of any given administration.”

The act of preparing the database also would leave state government better prepared to know which groups in the state bear the heaviest tax burdens, Lembo said.

The House of Representatives unanimously adopted a bill raised to implement the comptroller’s proposal.

But the Senate, which adjourned 17 minutes earlier than the mandatory midnight deadline on Wednesday, never took up the bill.

“There are a lot of bills that died on the calendar,” Senate President Pro Tem Donald E. Williams Jr., D-Brooklyn, said Thursday. “Seventeen minutes is not enough time to debate a bill that is going to have any significant back and forth discussion.”

Williams said it was his understanding that the Malloy administration “was OK with [the bill],” while Senate Majority Leader Martin M. Looney, D-New Haven, characterized the Executive Branch as “neutral on the bill.”

Malloy spokesman Andrew Doba said Friday, “We supported the bill and appreciated working with the comptroller on this effort.”