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Losing out to TIFs

The tale of the Maryville TIF tells you everything you need to know about the failed economic policy in Illinois called tax increment financing.

Maryville resisted using TIFs for 20 years, but finally is raising the white flag of defeat. Village leaders say all the surrounding communities offer TIFs, and that developers cut off discussions immediately once they realize Maryville has no financial incentives to offer. And so despite the state’s multimillion investment in Illinois 159, which passes through the heart of the village, Maryville now claims that both sides of the highway are blighted.

While we can appreciate Maryville’s predicament, the solution really isn’t more TIFs; it’s fewer. The East-West Gateway Council of Governments studied TIFs extensively on both the Illinois and Missouri sides of the river, and concluded that TIFs haven’t helped really the region’s economy or created good-paying jobs. But they have set up bidding wars between communities and shuffled retail businesses. The benefits to developers and businesses come at the expense of property taxpayers.

It used to be that businesses opened in communities based on location and other advantages, not tax incentives. We need to find a way back to those days.