• Twitter
  • Facebook
News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Them's the breaks

I actually like The Journal Gazette's editorial this morning about City Council's annexation debate. It notes correctly that the actual debate is not about whether to annex 2.3 acres where a dentist wants to build an office complex but about the tax abatement he wants as a condition of the annexation. It even praises Republican Councilmen Tom Smith and Russ Jehl for raising questions on a broader scale:

The issue raises difficult questions. Should abatements for a dentist be denied in an area where there are numerous providers but be permitted in underserved areas of the city? Will city officials send a bad message to job creators if they tighten abatement policies? Should the city and county work together to try to develop conforming policies on abatements? Should city officials be more aggressive in following up with businesses that receive abatements to make sure they made the investment and added the jobs they planned when receiving the tax break? Should breaks be cut off if they don’t?

Of course, I would go further than the JG does and pose a question the council did not raise: Why don't we just do away with tax abatements completely? In giving a tax abatement, we say we are encouraging business growth and economic development. Isn't that a tacit admission that the existence of the tax discourages growth so maybe we wouldn't have it? Instead of abating some taxes -- which amounts to the government giving one company an unfair advantage over its competitors -- why not determine the optimum rate for growth and development and set it there for everybody?

Because being able to dangle tax-break carrots in front of eager developers is the exercise of power and control and that's why people go into government, that's why.