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Tax Abatements in Wichita

Remarks to Wichita City Council, June 3, 2008.

A few months ago I spoke before this council asking that you not grant a tax abatement. At that time I was told that granting a property tax abatement doesn’t have any impact on City of Wichita spending.

I found this quite remarkable, that new homes and buildings can be built but not consume any additional resources that the city and other local governments supply. If this is truly the case, why should a new development of any type at any location have to pay any property tax at all?

There is a cost to the city and other local governments in granting tax abatements. Actually, the cost is born by the taxpayers who don’t achieve the favored status that these developers are seeking. These non-favored taxpayers — homeowners and businesses alike — have to pay for the services this development will consume but will not pay for because they seek to avoid paying their property tax.

Mr. Mayor and Members of the Council, if there were no impact on city spending, no cost to the taxpayers of the City of Wichita when a TIF district is created or tax abatements given, why would we not grant these benefits to anyone building anything in any part of town?

It is now apparent that TIF districts and tax abatements are entitlements that developers in politically-favored areas of town can count on receiving, while everyone else pays.

The granting of these benefits to developers working in certain parts of Wichita amounts to central government planning. It is government, instead of people trading freely in markets, deciding to direct capital from one part of town to another for political, instead of economic, reasons. In effect, this council says to entrepreneurs who chose to invest their capital somewhere else in Wichita — somewhere that doesn’t qualify for tax abatements — that they made a mistake. And they will pay for that mistake, as they pay the property tax that these developers will escape paying.

It may be that this project is not economically viable unless it receives the tax abatement. If so, we should ask why our taxes are so high that they discourage investment and economic activity.

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One Comment

  1. Surely, “we should ask why our taxes are so high that they discourage investment and economic activity.”

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