. . . I would ask the other panelists for answers to these questions about Tax Increment Financing (TIF) and centralized economic development policy:
1. To the business people on the panel, I would ask: Why, as supposed believers in capitalism and free markets, are you supporting proposals that will increase the use of centralized economic planning in Columbia? Do you believe that central economic planning by governments is desirable, because that is exactly what TIF is? Do you think it is the proper role of government to pick which companies and projects get special tax breaks, while others do not?
2. To the city officials on the panel, I would ask: Why, when Columbia is doing better than most other areas in Missouri, are you attempting to implement policies that are very expensive, have a terrible track record of creating jobs, and have a record of failure throughout the state? Although, frankly, it is probably a waste of time to ask those officials anything. TIF increases the power and involvement of government. If you are a city manager, what is not to like?
3. There are many questions to ask of former Saint Louis Mayor Vince Schoemehl. I would ask about the abject failure of Saint Louis Marketplace as a failure of TIF. I would ask about the failure of Saint Louis Center as a failure of central economic planning. I would ask, who came up with the idea for the disappearing police car? – not for any specific reason but it was a famous ad in Saint Louis political history so I would ask about it. Mostly though, I would ask why he thinks taking money and property from other people to fund things he likes can possibly be good public policy that should be imitated around the state.
TIF has been a total failure in our state, particularly in Saint Louis. Columbia should avoid expanding its use. And, yes, the panel should have included at least one person who is skeptical of the benefits of TIF and local economic planning. Finally, TIF absolutely and regularly involves the abuse of eminent domain. Unlike Enhanced Enterprise Zones, there is a track record of eminent domain abuse associated with TIF usage in Missouri.