Texas Governor Seeks to Scrap Tech Grants

AUSTIN, Texas (Bloomberg News/TNS) -

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said he wants to scrap a $485 million program that finances technology companies after lawmakers questioned whether it was an effective way to create jobs.

Abbott, a Republican, said Thursday he wants to eliminate the Emerging Technology Fund, which was created in 2005 under former Gov. Rick Perry to provide money to startup companies. Perry, who led the state from 2000 until Abbott took office this month, made luring businesses a priority and is considering seeking the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

Abbott, 57, said he wants to use the funds to attract “nationally recognized” researchers and professors to Texas’s universities.

“Any Texas public institution of higher education seeking to recruit a Nobel Laureate, Academy Member, or their equivalent would be eligible to seek matching funds on a dollar-for-dollar basis,” Abbott said in a statement.

Texas’s economic-incentive programs have drawn scrutiny from lawmakers who criticize them as wasteful. A Texas House of Representatives committee this month released a report calling for them to be overhauled.

The Emerging Technology Fund has awarded grants to nearly 200 projects, according to the fund’s 2013 annual report. The fund was faulted in a 2011 Texas State Auditor’s report for a lack of transparency and accountability.

Another economic-development fund created by Perry, the Texas Enterprise Fund, was used to lure employers, including Toyota Motor Corp., to the state. A September report by the state auditor found that it handed out $222 million to companies that never filed an application.