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Visa Wants a Chargeback

Governor and city propose economic development deal

By Michael King, 12:00PM, Mon. Nov. 26, 2012

Visa Wants a Chargeback

Last week Gov. Rick Perry's office and Austin announced a proposed economic development deal for a Visa Inc. "Global IT Center" in Austin. In return for major local investment and the promise of 794 new jobs, the Texas Enterprise Fund has pledged $7.9 million "contingent on finalization of local incentives" – i.e., $1.56 million over 10 years from Austin.

The TEF grants, created by the Legislature in 2003, require the approval of only the governor, lieutenant governor, and House speaker – meaning the likelihood of dissent is roughly zero. City of Austin ED decisions, on the other hand, require a City Council public hearing and vote as well as an application process – developed over several years and multiple, often controversial deals – involving city standards on hiring, contracting, environmental matters, etc.

The public hearing on the Visa proposal, at a special-called Council meeting, is Wednesday, Nov. 28, at 1:30pm in Council chambers. The vote is anticipated at Council's next regularly scheduled meeting. Public testimony is invited.

The full Visa proposal and related documents are available on the city's web site, Economic Growth and Redevelopment Services Office, where you'll find a link to submit online comments for Council review, through Dec. 2.

Texans for Public Justice has closely followed the TEF since its inception, and concluded last year that a majority of the projects have failed to meet their job commitments, and that through 2010 the program had generated only 37% of the jobs promised – although Perry's office consistently announces the promised number (currently 63,900 jobs) as though the jobs goals have in fact been met. For more on the TEF, see www.tpj.org under the heading, "Watch Your Assets."

We'll have more coverage of the Visa proposal in this week's print edition, available Thursday, Nov. 29.

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