Progress & Prosperity
September 10, 2009 2:06 PM
I've had a few emails and seen some online comments about the Edgewater Hotel project that lead me to think I need to clarify a point. These comments are along the lines of "you, Mr. Mayor, can find money to help developers but you can't spare a dime for orphans and widows." I am paraphrasing, but some of the comments are not that polite.
I have three responses.
First, we haven't cut funding for other services. Spending on community services is up 36% since I took office, about the same as the police department and greater than the rate of general inflation. We just put in place the largest service expansion for Madison Metro bus riders in over a decade. We've added two new fire stations and two new ambulances in four years. We've stepped up water main replacement and street repair. I could go on.
Second, the $16 million in tax incremental financing support for the Edgewater that I propose in my capital budget is not a handout, but essentially a loan. Our projections are that it will be paid back in about five years, after which the more than $1 million or so in added annual tax revenue will be there to support all kinds of needs including our public schools. In the meantime, no tax dollars will be lost because the current taxes on the property will be frozen. And before the developer gets anything he'll have to prove that the project wouldn't go forward at all without the assistance.
But finally and most importantly, we need the Edgewater and projects like it to build our tax base so that we can afford those community service programs and those fire stations and ambulances and street repairs and other projects that we want to do as a progressive city. The recession has essentially stopped growth in property values cold. If we don't have a growing tax base we can't grow the services that that tax base supports.
And, on the other side of the coin, I would argue that these investments in public infrastructure and services create the civic capital which, in turn, supports a healthy economy.
So, progressive public policies and economic prosperity are not at odds. They depend on one another.