TIF Is The Arch-Enemy
On Tuesday, people in both Saint Louis City and County will vote on an increased parks sales tax to support changes to the Arch grounds and increased funding for local parks. In my opinion, the various arguments for and against it are all washed away by one fatal flaw in the proposal. The state legislature, when it authorized the tax to go before the voters, did not exempt TIF funds from the sales tax. That means in most — if not all — of Saint Louis City and County, the almost 200 TIF districts will be able to keep half of the new sales tax revenues — supposedly going to parks and the Arch — and use it for themselves.
The infuriating thing is that when the legislature passed the bill allowing this tax last year, they also passed the enabling legislation for a new parks tax in Kansas City as part of the very same bill. And for that KC tax, they exempted the new sales tax from TIF. So this was not some oversight by legislative supporters of the tax in Saint Louis. If they knew to exempt the KC tax from TIF, they could (and should) have done so for the Arch tax. The fact that they did not can only be seen as an effort to help developers and other consistent TIF users by adding this new tax to the pot of money available for subsidies. That alone makes this new tax a bad idea for Saint Louis.