David Stokes
This article in the Post-Dispatch is a perfect example of the issues Josh considered in his great post about public goods a few weeks back. The St. Louis Zoo, and other entities in the zoo-museum district, are clearly non-rival, because the person standing next to me at the zoo who does not pay taxes to the district in no way diminishes my capacity to enjoy the zoo. However, the zoo, art museum, etc., are also fully excludable, because it is pretty easy to keep someone out who didn't pay, if that is what you desire to do. So, they are not the type of pure public goods that Josh discussed.

Should people from surrounding counties tax themselves to pay for the district like people in St. Louis county and city do? Or should the free riders just be allowed to continue enjoying the zoo without paying for it? I support the bill before the legislature requiring counties like St. Charles, Franklin, and Jefferson either to tax themselves or face having their residents pay an admission fee when they go to the zoo, history museum, et al. If they don't want to pay the property tax, that is fine, but then say goodbye to free admissions for people outside St. Louis County and city.

I think the St. Charles county executive makes a fair point, though:
[...] Steve Ehlmann said his constituents would be unlikely to vote to join the district unless some of the tax money is earmarked for some institution or service in their county.

I think it is very reasonable to add one park or institution in each county that elects to pay the property tax into the fold of entities supported by the tax. We could add the Daniel Boone home in St. Charles, the historic Washington riverfront park in Franklin County, the first meth lab ever busted in Jefferson County, and — if Illinois got in the game — Pops could be included.

P.S. — Just kidding, Jeff Co., you know I love you. ...

About the Author

David Stokes
David Stokes was a policy analyst at the Show-Me Institute from 2007 to 2014 and was director of development from 2014 to 2016.