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Tax-break oversight must be improved

A report issued Tuesday by the Portland auditor's office criticizing the city for lax oversight of tax-abatement programs intended to spur affordable housing and homeownership is old, but still very frustrating, news.

The report follows a Multnomah County audit released in February that pointedly faulted the city for poor enforcement and sloppy record keeping related to tax-abatement programs.

While the city auditor says some improvements have been achieved, it remains all too clear that the Portland Development Commission and the city planning bureau still are not providing complete oversight of the city's many tax-abatement programs.

As a result, the $8.5 million in tax abatements granted may not achieve the economic development and housing goals fully intended. Meanwhile, the taxes not collected on these housing properties are costing the city, the county, local school districts and other tax programs.

We think taxpayers are the big losers when government doesn't play by its own rules. After all, the public expects the city to oversee complex programs and ensure taxes are being used in the best possible ways.

The state should make regular reporting a requirement - and better oversight must begin in earnest today.