TIF and the Pandemic, Part 1
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported recently on the struggles of county health departments in Missouri during the Covid pandemic. We all recognize the vital services public health workers have provided over the past year to our communities. The article describes the myriad issues county health departments and their employees have faced in the past year, including funding levels.
Are the funding levels from state and county taxes (more on that in a subsequent post) enough to provide the right level of public health services? Federal emergency funds sent to the state stabilized funding issues for many departments during this crisis, but are we properly funding public health efforts in Missouri aside from that?
Well, I don’t know what the proper level of public health funding is, but I do know that the rampant abuse of tax-increment financing (TIF) and other tax abatement programs takes a very large bite out of local public health funding. Local governments in Missouri have given out over $7 billion worth of subsidies for TIF alone over the past few decades. Most of those subsidies come from property taxes, the precise taxes used to primarily fund our local health departments. If you add in property tax abatements and other types of tax subsidies, the number would be substantially higher.
I don’t know what percentage of that $7 billion in TIF would have gone to local health departments (both past, present, and future subsidies), but while it would likely be a low percentage, a low percentage of $7 billion is still a lot of money.
So, on top of all the economic, fiscal, social, and environmental damage TIF has caused, we can add in reduced public health funding during a pandemic. We can’t pass massive subsidy reform in Missouri fast enough.