Report finds Urban Renewal siphons $52 M from taxpayers, little benefit

Erik Makrush Urban Renewal

Boise, Idaho — A report released today identifies an estimated $52 million of tax dollars being diverted from local taxing districts to pay for government-selected projects with little economic benefit.

Cato Institute Senior Policy Analyst Randal O’Toole wrote the report for the Idaho Freedom Foundation. The Cato Institute is a Washington, D.C.-based free market public policy research organization.

“The report confirms Idaho’s urban renewal districts are out of control, and the Legislature needs to act to fix the problem before it becomes even worse,” said Idaho Freedom Foundation Executive Director Wayne Hoffman.

O’Toole, in his report, says, “Idaho cities tout tax-increment financing as a way to create jobs, improve blighted neighborhoods, promote competitively disadvantaged border communities, and revitalize downtowns, all at no cost to taxpayers. In fact, tax-increment financing allows cities to steal funds that taxpayers think they have dedicated to schools, fire, and other programs in order to subsidize favored developers, increase municipal budgets, and socially engineer the way Idahoans live.”

O’Toole notes that in 2009, Idaho urban-renewal districts collected an estimated $52 million in property taxes. “This amount is rapidly increasing as more cities create urban-renewal agencies and more agencies create more districts,” O’Toole said. “If all counties eventually create urban-renewal programs as voracious as those in Jerome County, then urban renewal will take a $260 million bite out of statewide property tax collections.”

IFF Urban Renewal Policy Analyst Erik Makrush said too many cities are taking in productive farmland in the name of “urban renewal.”

According to Makrush, “Reform is critical. Legislators from across the state are beginning to fully understand how the current lack of accountability of urban renewal agencies is hurting the people of Idaho.” Urban renewal districts are created without a vote of the people and district commissioners are appointed, not elected.

For further information contact IFF Urban Renewal Policy Analyst Erik Makrush at [email protected]

“Theft as Urban Renewal: Why Idaho Should Repeal the Local Economic Development Act” report can be downloaded at www.idahofreedom.net.