by Max Brantley
A good report from Roby Brock at Talk Business on the Arkansas Economic Development Commission's annual report and wish list.
In short: More and more and more corporate welfare is what they wish. Cuz, see, the free market and entrepreneurial spirit and the American way are just bull**** phrases that businessmen throw around. What they really want is taxpayer money to lower risk and raise profit margins. Wouldn't you?
There's a lot to worry about in this list.For example: I know everybody thinks windmill building is today's sliced bread, but it's a business that wouldn't work without taxpayer subsidies and, like everything, it's not a one-dimensional issue.
But the AEDC's constitutional tinkering is very scary stuff indeed. 1) Approving a property tax for economic development spending? 2) Making it easier to tap super project money -- in other words, projects need not be so super? 3) Allowing the state to invest in private businesses? Thanks, but the U.S. is doing quite enough of that at the moment.
It is a pipe dream to think that politicians, given tax money for economic development or business investment would allot it apolitically.
But the worst idea of all is to allow sales taxes to be devoted to Tax Increment Finance District projects. Hoping to tap school property taxes for their TIFs, but mostly denied, the real estate developers now want to take local sales taxes to build their shopping centers. It would be one thing if this proposal would prohibit retail stores from keeping their sales taxes. But odds are -- with shopping center developer Bruce Burrow a long-time memberr of AEDC -- that retailers and shopping centers are what this is all about.
TIFs will still mostly work only in areas that are booming and don't need government incentives to grow in the first place -- Rogers, Jonesboro, etc. You can bet Bruce Burrow won't be proposing a Bass Pro for Eudora, even with a sales tax set aside. We hope the Municipal League and Association of Counties will be on guard for those who'd raid the money to build jail cells, hire cops and fight fires to build sporting goods stores.