Over the weekend the Fargo Forum editorial board took aim at critics of development incentive programs like Renaissance Zones and tax increment finance districts.
“[B]ecause tax benefits go to selected businesses, some people just can’t see the big picture. The Renaissance Zone and tax-increment financing district program, another tax forgiveness program to develop property, are controversial. That’s because a small, but very loud, minority squawk about them,” the paper opines.
Supporters of these incentive programs argue that they work. They spur the sort of development many people want. They raise the value of property and thus tax revenue that property generates.
Detractors say the incentives are, in the aggregate, perpetual and thus narrow the tax base and put upward pressure on the taxes everyone else pays. They also point out how unseemly it can be to have politicians doling out financial favors to deep-pocketed developers who often lobby long and hard for them. And then there’s the question of whether or not they’re necessary. Would the development getting the incentives have happened without them? The developers say no, but then they’re the ones getting the incentives.