Sen. Tim Green has passed, apparently, legislation to change the ways Tax Increment Financing is managed in the St. Louis area. In short, this change would give more power to county TIF commissions and less to individual municipalities within St. Louis, St. Charles and Jefferson Counties.
This is a much-needed improvement and I commend Sen. Green for his efforts to make this change. In St. Charles, former county executive Joe Ortwerth did truly amazing work in his long-term fight to prevent cities, particularly St. Peter's, from giving away the entire tax base just so they could get another Applebee's. In St. Louis, county officials have done a good job in limiting TIF use and making sure it is used in truly needy areas, but municipal officials have long had the decision-making power within their cities and they have not always used that power wisely, to say the least.
I have one concern about the amendment. I believe it does not go far enough. I don't blame Sen. Green for this - it may not have been able to pass if it were more strict. But the law in essence says local municipalities can still override the county TIF commission, and all they have to do is get a 2/3 majority vote of the local governing body for the TIF. I say all the power should rest with the county commission and local muni's have no say whatsoever. Then we would see decisions truly made in the best interest of the entire area. Some cities have people like Laura Bryant serving them who really know this issue and fight against the abuses, but many I fear will just go along with the city manager or mayor in the constant effort to bring more crappy restaurants and stupid retail stores selling various types of storage to every inch of every block in America.