Kansas City Star Editorial Board Gets Subsidies Wrong Again
The Kansas City Star editorial board published the following in a piece on the earnings tax on January 28:
A spokesman for the Show-Me Institute—funded in large part by St. Louis multimillionaire Rex Sinquefield, an ardent earnings tax foe—said this week that the city should stop offering tax incentives and tighten its fiscal belt. The spokesman’s claim: These subsidies are “north of $100 million a year.”
Add all of the city’s investments in economic development — through the earnings, sales and property taxes as well as direct public subsidies for projects—and it’s $77.6 million of diverted revenue this fiscal year.
That’s a big number. But it’s not close to being “north” of $100 million.
We at the Show-Me Institute have been telling this to people since we first got the numbers from the city's own finance department in February 2015. Those documents, available via the link at the bottom of this post, show that the subsidies for fiscal year 2014 are $93 million, and do not include the subsidies for Burns & McDonnell and Cerner. The latter subsidy, which the Star unequivocally endorsed, might be the biggest tax diversion in the history of the state of Missouri.
The problem is that the Star's editorial board likely only considered the city’s portion of TIF subsidies. The problem with TIF, however, is that it allows the city to divert money from other taxing jurisdictions such as schools, counties, and libraries. In short, the city is offering subsidies with other people's money.
I would welcome the opportunity to look over the documents the Star used to reach their conclusions. Do they include Cerner and Burns & Mac? Do they include bond payments on the Power & Light District and the Citadel? Do they include earnings tax subsidies given to the Star itself? How about TDDs, CIDs, Chapter 353 property tax abatements, etc? If not, then their calculation of the cost of subsidies is embarrassingly incomplete.