The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette’s Michael Wickline wrote a thorough analysis of little-discussed (pay wall) Issue 2, another get-rich scheme for developers that is mostly flying under radar this election season. As I’ve said before, the Koch Bros.’ paid mouthpiece in Arkansas, Teresa Oelke, quoted in the article, is dead right on this issue.
The constitutional scheme before voters Tuesday to allow local sales taxes to subsidize private retail development is nothing but corporate welfare, with no proven benefit to anyone except the corporation receiving the handout. They call it economic development or, worse, “redevelopment.” But no retail store ever created new demand for socks, underwear, shotguns or anything else. It only shifted the business from somewhere else. If private businesses want to invest some money in, say, a Southwest Little Rock shopping center to build a giant sporting goods store that would cripple other sporting goods stores in the rest of Little Rock, Benton, North Little Rock or wherever, let them do it with their own dimes.
Read the language carefully:
Issue 2 would allow “the acquisition, development, redevelopment, and revitalization of land within the district, for eliminating or preventing the development or spread of slums or blighted, deteriorated, or deteriorating areas, for discouraging the loss of commerce, industry, or employment, for increasing employment, or any combination … as may be defined by the General Assembly.” My emphasis supplied
There’s all kind of cloaking language about redevelopment and revitalization but it is not REQUIRED by the plain language. To qualify for the handout, a business need only demonstrate it has bought land to open a business that will employ someone, even if it means a loss of jobs and resulting blight elsewhere. A Little Rock developer could get a tax subsidy to build a Brooks Brothers store in ritzy Pulaski Heights.
We went down this road before with the tax increment finance amendment, another developer boondoggle upended when the Supreme Court wouldn’t let developers plunder school tax money for shopping centers. Now they’re back trying to cadge sales tax money.
Remember Amendment 78, the “city and county government redeveloment” amendment”? It provided:
For purposes of this section, the term “redevelopment project” means an undertaking for eliminating, or preventing the development or spread of, slums or blighted, deteriorated, or deteriorating areas, for discouraging the loss of commerce, industry, or employment, or for increasing employment, or any combination thereof, as may be defined by the General
Again, I supplied emphasis in the passage above. All that claptrap about redevelopment was just a cloak for the real purpose, subsidies for developers in the richest cities. Create a job and you qualify, even if you kill jobs elsewhere with your project. One of the few projects shoved through under this handout before it (the TIF handout scheme) foundered was the Turtle Creek Mall in Jonesboro, in a better part of town, that further damaged competitively an older shopping center. Some redevelopment. Go-go Rogers and Little Rock and North Little Rock developers also were licking their chops and you can be sure they weren’t targeting the ghetto.
It’s another bite at the same apple. Vote NO ON ISSUE 2. The Kochs and the Arkansas Times, together at last.