A Kansas House committee approved legislation requiring the state agency responsible for awarding economic development incentives to businesses to document tax breaks on a website available to the public.

The Kansas Department of Commerce's tax incentive programs also would automatically, for the first time, be subject of performance reviews by the Legislature's auditing division.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers on the House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee said they were eager for reform because Kansas remained one of the few states cloaking in secrecy details of tax breaks given businesses and avoiding rigorous analysis of the success or failure of incentives.

Rep. Bradley Ralph, a Republican from Dodge City, said the public website would offer a snapshot of the state's economic development efforts. The audits will be useful to lawmakers studying use of income tax exemptions or tax credits and considering modification or overhaul of the programs, he said.

"This is not perfect, but this gives us a start," Ralph said. “This gives us all the same spot to start from in terms of how we evaluate these programs.”

Rep. Tom Burroughs, D-Kansas City, said assessing the value of Kansas economic development incentives has been undermined by lack of a way to determine if companies met goals in job creation or capital investment. In short, he said, a company drawing millions of dollars in tax benefits doesn't have to be held accountable to Kansas taxpayers.

"We were advised that is confidential information," Burroughs said. "I think that has been some of the frustration."

Under House Bill 2006, endorsed Monday by the House committee, the Department of Commerce would provide data on programs providing more than $50,000 in annual incentives. The information would then be stored in a public database updated on an annual basis.

The auditing provisions were added to the bill during committee discussion to deal with limits in state law on the Kansas Department of Revenue's ability to share tax information, said Rep. Sean Tarwater, R-Stilwell.

“They would report to us whether or not (the recipients) were actually following the rules of a particular deal," he said.

The bill wouldn't allow violation of business confidentiality agreements put in place before July 2019 nor make public names of people who made investments for the purpose of gaining a tax break.