“The County Will Help Bridgeton Find a Better Deal.”
According to an article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch from Friday, St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley encourages the municipality of Bridgeton to reject TIF for Walmart. I commend St. Louis County for exercising fiscal restraint; for reasons that David Stokes explains in a 2008 editorial, it’s preferable that counties, not cities, allocate TIFs.
However, the following statement in the article concerns me:
[Garry Earls, Dooley’s chief of staff and chief operating officer of the county,] pledged “the county will help Bridgeton find a better deal.”
The government should not be in the business of “finding a better deal” or picking economic winners and losers. The free market does this fairly and more efficiently — and at zero cost to taxpayers. Instead of getting involved, local and county governments should allow development to happen naturally in an unrestricted market. Having general low-tax and pro-business policies is the most efficient way to attract businesses to an area and incite economic growth. Developments that use TIF are not guaranteed success, and those that are successful may have been successful independently.
If there is a sufficient level of consumer demand for the new Walmart, then the company will decide to move to the location independent of government assistance. If there is not enough demand in the area, then Walmart will decide to move elsewhere, and local governments would not have to forfeit revenues in the short term to pay for the project.