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Tax increment financing gets another bad review. Is anybody listening?

Tax increment financing is popular with developers hungry for subsidies and municipalities searching for more sales tax dollars. Outside of those two interest groups, TIFs don’t get many good reviews.

In a current academic study in Economic Development Quarterly co-authored by Kenneth Thomas of the University of Missouri – St. Louis, TIFs are shown not to help a region’s economic growth. The study states that “TIF adoption patterns contribute to intermunicipal inequality,” that is, the economic development tool helps one community at the expense of another community. TIFs don’t make the pie bigger, it just makes the slices different sizes.

A report last year by East-West Gateway showed that

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Jefferson County cities show that collaboration is more realistic than consolidation

Most difficulties arise from many causes, so it follows that one approach seldom solves everything. Progress can, and often needs, to take many forms.

With governmental jurisdictions experiencing increasing fiscal stress, talk of consolidation has increased. Often talk of merging entities – for example, the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County – rarely goes beyond talk. The most recent merger motif would have the city lose its only-city-not-within-a-county status and become the 92nd municipality within St. Louis County. That would be less a merger than a reunification 134 years after the 1876 split.

That would mean the city would lose its “county” offices, such as treasurer, the sheriff’s

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