News Sentinel: Congressman blasts TVA for refusing to disclose subsidies

TVA’s refusal to release how much it gave a South Korean auto parts maker in economic subsidies to locate in Clinton, Tennessee, has drawn fire from a congressman.

The Knoxville News Sentinel made a public records request under the Freedom of Information Act for TVA documents that would outline the economic incentives for SL Tennessee, but the government utility refused to release them, saying it would harm their competitive position with other utilities who also recruit industry.

In a story posted on its website today, the News Sentinel quotes U.S. Rep. John J. Duncan Jr. questioning why TVA would keep the deal secret, and even the wisdom of the incentives themselves. Here is an excerpt from the story:

“TVA is not a private company — it is a public monopoly, most places, with advantages that are not given to most other businesses,” said Duncan, a Knoxville Republican. “I believe all of their activities should be transparent and open to the public.”

“I have long believed it is unfair to give so much to businesses that move from other states or even other countries, while not giving much of anything to businesses that have been contributing locally and across the state for many years,” Duncan said.

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, an Ooltewah Republican, also suggested TVA should be transparent about the incentives.

“There’s no question that the No. 1 issue in East Tennessee is jobs, and SL Tennessee’s expansion will bring 1,000 new jobs to Anderson County,” Fleischmann said.

But, “it is important that our government and all related agencies function with proper transparency and oversight,” Fleischmann said. “I believe TVA can do that while remaining competitive and aiding economic development throughout the Tennessee Valley.”

Tennessee’s two U.S. senators — Republicans Bob Corker of Chattanooga and Lamar Alexander of Maryville — deferred to TVA’s judgment on refusing to make the incentives public.

“I have talked with TVA, and as I understand it, their well-known economic development programs were used when recruiting SL, but they do not publicize the specifics of how the programs are applied to each prospective company,” Corker said.


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