Sunday, January 20, 2019

Go Finance Yourself

Now that Tax Increment Financing (TIF) seems to be the order of the day, no big development or corporation will come to the City without a big tax break and/or having their infrastructure updated on the City's tab. This phenomenon is not exclusive to Baltimore. All major cities are regardless of how cash poor they are are offering free money for large corporations with Billions in cash lying around to come their City.
If you think this is a "rich get richer" or "1% not paying their fair share" you're right. Most of America's large Cities including Baltimore have crumbling infrastructure, dilapidated public schools, many poor citizens on public assistance and declining revenue from their respective State and Federal Governments. So how can they all of the sudden afford to give so much revenue be it present or future? The answer is; They can't.

Cities believe that these big developments or corporations will eventually re-generate the revenue spent on getting them to choose their City be it cash, no tax on their land, or footing the bill for required infrastructure the developer or corporation would otherwise pay themselves. So should we tell large developers and corporations shopping around to build their offices to go finance themselves?
In theory yes. However if Baltimore were to adopt this philosophy by itself, other cities such as DC or Philadelphia etc. would be chosen because their City Governments would provide the funds. In order to restore City resources back to its actual citizens, ALL cities would have to come together and tell big business to go finance itself. At that point, big business would be forced to pay its fair share regardless of where they want to locate.
 The Go Finance Yourself strategy would work much better when developing land versus attracting a large corporation. Large corporations can go anywhere they want however, land doesn't move. For instance, if Sagamore hadn't taken on Port Covington for lacking of TIF from the City, another developer would respond and put in a bid. Since the second developer knows that the City isn't giving out TIFS, they will include that extra financing in their proposal.
There a few (very few) instances where TIFs would be useful in Baltimore. None of those instances are near the Harbor. They're in the City's poorest and most dilapidated Neighborhoods. If a Developer wants to build new, safe, affordable housing there, that's when a TIF may be useful since it's protecting the City's most vulnerable. I would also see a TIF useful when attracting a full service Grocer to these areas. Not only does that solve food desert problems but it brings employment opportunities to these Neighborhoods.
As you're aware, Baltimore is cash poor and it needs every penny of its revenue to rebuild itself from the ground up be it by rebuilding crumbling infrastructure, school construction, job training, and social services and healthcare for citizens who need it, it's beyond sickening that the City is giving tax breaks and others to the already rich. It's time to stand up to these rich developers and corporations Nationwide in addition to Citywide by saying; Go Finance Yourself!