EZ Throwdown!

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West Berkeley's Enterprize Zone (Credit: Berkeley's Office of Economic Development)

I've been reporting about the economic incentives cities use to keep employers close: cheap power, cheap parking, payroll tax breaks and the expansion of enterprise tax zones. Today, Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters takes aim and fires at the zones, again.

Every time the state's economy takes a dip, politicians start chanting the "jobs" mantra, promising voters that they'll put more people to work, even though there's almost no evidence that anything the state does or can do has any appreciable effect on the economy.

The EZ program has been one of the more expensive of the state's many economic development programs, costing the state treasury about a half-billion dollars a year and thus contributing to its chronic budget deficits.

Last year, the Public Policy Institute of California, in an exhaustive study of EZs, declared that despite their cost, they generated "no statistically significant effect on employment."

Since the Sac Bee links only to itself, here's a direct link to last year's PPIC Study. Come to think of it, here's the Forum segment with author Jed Kolko speaking in detail.

I'd like to hear from those of you on the front lines.  Are you running a business or representing an area in an enterprise tax zone? Did you once? Are EZs essential?  Over-hyped and a waste of money and effort? Or occasionally useful in limited situations?

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About Rachael Myrow

Rachael Myrow hosts the California Report for KQED. Over 17 years in public radio, she's worked for Marketplace and KPCC, filed for NPR and The World, and developed a sizable tea collection that's become the envy of the KQED newsroom. She specializes in politics, economics and history in California - but for emotional balance, she also covers food and its relationship to health and happiness.

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