The Republican Party likes to “smoke their own dope” when talking “fiscal conservatism”. Showing up to oppose a $20 fee to help the poor get a lift to work, while ignoring fiscally liberal runaway elitism, is hardly fiscally conservative. Maybe, Republicans need to check their own house.
In their defense., perhaps its because of Republicans’ own ignorance that stems from a non-investigative local press that fails to communicate the fiscal realities of local affairs. And the reality is no city in America can support growth or even the status quo with major employers either property tax exempt or getting a 75% abatement. Its math.
Memphians, in many cases, unknowingly live in a community of runaway elitism administered by the FedEx/Memphis Tomorrow complex of Fred Smith and Pitt Hyde where excessive tax incentives roar for the small few – while Memphis Tomorrow public/private initiatives are down in all categories while using your federal, state and local tax dollars. Its a design for decline occurring without public measurement of the public/private complex.
Its been going on for almost 20 years while racking up below average GDP growth that has cost taxpayers $1.5 billion over time and deficient recurring annual tax revenue totaling $200M. Deficient revenue growth shows up as services gaps in for example public transit as well as others. And local Republicans participate in the wreckage.
Cary Vaughn has sat on two local workforce development boards that have failed to connect workforce development programming costing taxpayers an estimated $15M per year. These botched workforce development efforts have put Memphis 5 years behind in workforce development in a global economy. With no sense of urgency, Vaughn’s mistake was not leading, breaking from his board and going public to confront deficient public-private board leadership on workforce matters.
And Vaughn also sits on the EDGE Board where he just voted for the excessive $38M tax incentive for UPS that was going to happen nowhere else but Memphis as well as the recent LeSaint Logistics PILOT that abated $4.5M in existing taxes for 52 low wage warehouse jobs. To give Republicans some idea of EDGE’s recklessness, consider the below EDGE approvals:
EDGE job incentives at $500 million + exceed the $335 million in total job incentives in both Indianapolis and Nashville combined.
Three of 96 EDGE tax incentive awards — involving International Paper, Nike and Technicolor at $148 million — exceed all of Indianapolis job incentives awards at $135 million involving 110 projects while Indy has greater job growth
In short, EDGE job tax incentives are $250 million+ in excess when benchmarked against other cities. This has resulted in slow growth and lack of available public transit, public safety and workforce development resources.
Further, involving all 13 Shelby County abating agencies, Memphis has 431 PILOT parcel contracts compared to 50 or less for each Nashville, Knoxville and Chattanooga. While these excessive incentives occur, in Commission EDGE oversight proceedings, Commissioner Mick Wright has yet to protest the associated fiscal liberalism as practiced through excessive incentive awards.
It would certainly be nice to see the Shelby County Republican Party show up in legislative chambers to raise concerns against excessive corporate/real estate incentives or $3.3M Riverfront grants that contain no schedule of deliverables or a $3M UofM tennis center grant without economic impact justification or competing proposals.
But apparently blind to runaway elitism, perhaps because they know nothing else, Republicans show up to claim the “fiscal conservative” mantel to oppose a $20 annual fee to help the poor get a lift to work. Meanwhile Commissioner Brandon Morrison leads.
With No Good Options, Morrison Leads
With no good funding options, Morrison leads. I believe she has done thorough research and found that there is no other option available for a dedicated transit funding source. I know she is capable of thorough financial research. And the transit funding dilemma is not new, dating back 3 years when funding was identifed as the primary obstacle to adequate public transit. As a result, again, Memphis falls 3 yrs behind.
Morrison appealed to her own Republican Party, was rejected and led forward. The $20 fee is the best bad option while supporting advocated business and economic development interests. In committee, Morrison effectively said the ad hoc committee is kicking the can down the road, predicting a version of the fee as the final outcome. She has done her homework.
To that extent, I hope the Commission quickly passes a $14 or $20 transit fee while expeditiously moving to reform excessive incentives and implementing publicly administered measurement of the vast nonprofit public-private complex. That is where the greatest cost to taxpayers resides in excessive incentives and under performing public – private initatives.
The proposed tax incentive fiscal note impact (TIFNI) platform provides a fiscal note for every abatement while providing a measurement platform for public-private initiatives. Through the use of a fiscal note, TIFNI helps to right size and reform tax incentives.
Now Republicans know; a $20 fee is nothing in the overall scheme of things. A city cannot be adequately supported while major employers are either tax exempt or getting 75% abatements. And a city can only decline when the FedEx/Memphis Tomorrow complex is down in all categories while using your federal, state and local tax dollars.
Its ok to call it a tax. The poor are already being unfairly taxed with inadequate transit. A $20 annual tax on the rest of us, is not much to ask.
And finally, maybe Commissioners should consider the community debt and ethical invoice to the FedEx/Memphis Tomorrow complex of $1,500,000,000 payable upfront in the wake of 20 yrs of runaway elitism.