Special for Mayor Hays | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Special for Mayor Hays

Posted By on Tue, Nov 11, 2008 at 11:50 AM

I clicked the Kansas City Star website today looking for more news about the devastating layoffs -- more than 200 now -- that have hit the ranks of that storied newspaper. Good timing. I found a batch of stories on Tax Increment Finance Districts, which have enjoyed great favor in KC.

NLR Mayor Pat Hays is desperate to get TIFs up and running in his city. Jonesboro has already been plundered. The TIF law provides that developers enjoy taxpayer subsidies to encourage projects. In theory, TIFs were supposed to help combat blight. In Arkansas, developers have mostly talked them up in prosperous areas where taxpayer subsidies aren't necessary for success (i.e. a new mall for Jonesboro). NLR has targeted some land more in keeping with the original philosophy, but I don't include the paving of Dark Hollow for Bruce Burrow's sporting goods store in that category, particularly when you consider the dredged wetlands and the vast investment in highway infrastructure necessary, on top of welfare payments to the developer from property tax proceeds

But back to the KC Star. It's done a bunch of reporting on the topic that has relevance here.

Such as excessive profit margins for developers with taxpayers' help.

Such as the risk of getting infected with TIF frenzy and extending benefits to projects that "overpromise and underproduce." KC has 55 TIF districts now that have extended more than $3 billion in promised tax breaks.

Such as a mayor who thinks the city needs a "coherent economic development policy." As opposed to giving away the farm to whichever developer turned up at City Hall with a smile and a shoeshine.

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