Tax Breaks Must Bring Home the Bacon!
by
Commissioner Tommy Adkisson
May 15, 2003

One of the most difficult tasks of elected officials is the difficult process of dealing with tax incentives.  At first I had to struggle with just the acronyms TIF and TIRZ!  The TIF is a tax abatement most often for commercial enterprises like Toyota while the TIRZ is a tax increment reinvestment zone, most often directed to those communities that are languishing economically.

The biggest struggle I have had is to figure out who is most deserving in terms of the extent of the benefit that accrues to the community.  At the outset of my service as Commissioner I was successful in moving and passing a measure on the Court to support a Congressional effort to ban tax incentives altogether within the United States.    This would prevent American cities and states from competing with each other and "giving away the farm" in the process. 

What I found in the process of serving on the Court is that historically "dead" zones existed that needed an extra boost to become economically viable for housing development.  I also found that businesses like Toyota and other less large businesses that joined the public sector in a joint public and private venture to generate jobs and economic activity are desirable to the maintenance of a functional community.  So my view was tempered by these kinds of considerations.

We all know though that often it is not what is being done but how it is being done.  The "what" of these proposed tax incentives is being done in the environment of "how" tax incentives are being awarded.  That environment involves lobbyists and a campaign finance system that is rather rudimentary and capable of placing elected officials in a bad light, yet is a part of the American economacracy. 

To address more fully the questions about the "how", the County and the City are appointing a Joint County/City Tax Phase-In Guideline Task Force.  This committee is composed of five Bexar County appointees and five City of San Antonio appointees to hold public meetings on issues that might impact the County or City tax phase-in guidelines, synthesize the public input, and develop draft guidelines for each governmental entity to consider for approval. 

My appointee incidentally, is Mr. Fred Pfeiffer, retired General Manager of the San Antonio River Authority.  He is thoroughly familiar with the nature of this topic, the impact on homeowners and the role of tax incentives in economic generation.  He is a devoted student of public policy and a devoted citizen to our community's ongoing improvement.

This Committee is in my opinion, unable to adequately address the questions that arise from the faulty system of campaign finance plagued primarily by big money and special interests.  Until we find a way to cap campaign expenditures, we will continue to have a "race for the money" that is built into the current system for the financing of campaigns.  I have previously written on the subject of reform and will continue to do so, knowing that there is a multitude of opinions as to the real "fix" of our system.  Perhaps for the time being we can somewhat console ourselves with the fact that those making decisions on tax incentives are subject to election by the people. 

I look forward to keeping you posted on the progress of our Joint Committee.

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