EDITORIAL: Stop obstructing TIF projects

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We applaud the move by certain Democrats on the City-County Council last month to advance a proposal to expand the downtown tax increment financing district.

Now we’re counting on the full council to pass it when it’s eligible for consideration at the council’s Sept. 17 meeting.

The proposal sought by the Ballard administration has been in the works for almost a year as part of the city’s attempt to stoke development in the 500 block of Massachusetts Avenue, promote development in the northwest quadrant of the Mile Square, and create a tech hub along West 16th Street near the old Bush Stadium.

Brian Mahern and other Democrats responded by forming a study commission to evaluate the city’s use of TIF districts, with an eye toward limiting their use.

Such districts divert new property tax revenue within their boundaries to pay for infrastructure and other public subsidies that act as a catalyst for new development. Detractors say the city needs all that revenue to fund essential services. TIF proponents counter that the revenue wouldn’t exist without the projects the TIF money helps to create.

We aren’t against evaluating how the city uses TIFs and adopting safeguards to make sure the TIF mechanism isn’t abused. In fact, we encouraged the study when it was launched earlier this year. But we object to the foot-dragging demonstrated by those who want to overhaul the city’s TIF policy.

Steve Talley, chairman of the Council’s Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee, has repeatedly refused to bring the TIF expansion proposal up for a vote in his committee.

On Aug. 27, Councilor Vop Osili brought the TIF proposal forward in spite of Talley, and the committee approved it. Osili and Councilor Joseph Simpson, both of whom represent districts that would benefit from the projects, agreed to support expansion of the downtown TIF in exchange for more than $13 million in city work-force training funds for their constituents.

The important projects the city is trying to jump-start with expansion of the downtown TIF district were conceived with TIF as part of the financial equation. This is not the time to drastically overhaul the city’s TIF policy. Officials on both sides of the debate can take a more rational, less politically charged look at the issue when there aren’t projects in the pipeline that will succeed or fail based on the outcome of deliberations.

The Democrats who worked with the Ballard administration to make the TIF expansion more palatable chose progress over grandstanding. It’s good to know the art of compromise isn’t dead in Indianapolis city government.•


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