Monday, August 13, 2012

It's not just TIFs

The Post-Dispatch has an outstanding editorial today about the folly of tax increment finance (TIFs):
In 2010, according to information compiled by the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, $67.7 million in property taxes was diverted from various government entities in the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County for the benefit of TIFs. More than half of that money, $38.7 million, should have gone to school districts. Another $36.3 million in sales tax revenue was diverted.
That's fine if the diverted money fed an economic beast, but it didn't. Various East-West Gateway reports have determined that at best, TIFs move some retail money around between competing municipalities. There has been next to no economic benefit for the St. Louis region in terms of net new jobs since the use of this development tool exploded over the last two decades.
This is absolutely right, and I'm glad that P-D editors find themselves on the right side of an economic issue for a change.  They fail, however, to see the big picture: The corruption and ineffectiveness they point out are not a product of TIFs, but are the very nature of government intervention into the free market.  I might be wrong, but I don't expect that this excellent editorial is a sign that the editors will come to their senses any time soon over the many offenses against economic freedom committed by all levels of government.