Kansas City sold $295 million worth of TIF bonds to revitalize a part of the city known as the Power & Light District. The developer who benefitted from this money says “the development was successful as part of a broader effort to re-energize the city’s downtown.” Unfortunately, tax revenues are less than a third of what was projected, with the result that city taxpayers are having to make up the difference (as if city taxpayers wouldn’t be paying for it anyway).
The city naturally blames the problems on the recession. But recessions happen. Here’s the difference between private developments and government-subsidized developments: If the private developer guesses wrong, only the investors lose. If the government planners guess wrong, every taxpayer in the city or region loses.
The Wall Street Journal article about this boondoggle doesn’t mention it, but Kansas City wants to spend another $100 million on a two-mile-long streetcar line connecting Power & Light with other parts of downtown Kansas City. No doubt that will fix the problem. While they are at it, how about an aerial tramway, maybe a new sports stadium or two? Just what the city taxpayers need: more places to sink their money.