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Zero Stars for the STAR Bond Renewal
Posted by Todd Davidson on Thursday, June 07, 2012
The Capitol Journal editorial board praised the Legislature and Governor Brownback's recent renewal of the STAR Bonds program – although the CJ did concede life would be merrier if we didn’t need the program.  The program allows Kansas municipalities to loan out a chunk of tax payer dollars to retailers, who then use sales tax revenue from the newly developed area to pay back the loan – instead of paying for schools, fire stations, and police services. I’m giving the Governor and Legislature zero stars for this renewal, as the program often does little more than supplant economic activity.

The CJ argued that the Wyandotte County boom would have taken place in Missouri if it weren’t for the fat loans.  Granted, the closer you get to a border the more effective the STAR bonds will be at stealing business from a neighbor. That would be A-OK if Missouri were the only neighbor losing business.

Growing up I often spent my Friday night at the West Glen 18 Movie Theatre at 435 and Midland. After the Legends Shopping Center was built I started going to the fancier Legends 14.  Is this new economic activity or just shifting my purchase at the expense of the sales tax paying West Glen theatres?  Would West Glen have installed Tempur-Pedic seat cushions if the Legends weren’t built, I don’t know, but any expansion by West Glen would have been futile in the face of the legendary STAR bond development to the north.

Another activity I enjoyed growing up was taking a stroll down Mass Street, in Lawrence, to buy sweet new jeans. However, shortly after the Legends Shopping Center was up and running, Mass Street was old news and my friends and I would travel to Village West instead.  Again, did we create new economic activity at the Legends, or just shift purchases from the sales tax paying businesses on Mass Street to the posh stores at the Legends?

A healthy economy must be vibrant and always changing as entrepreneurs seek to fulfill our ever changing wants and needs; that the Legends is new, stylish, and exciting should not be criticized, many people happen to like that stuff.  But asking the good people who earn their living at stores on Mass Street, or in movie theatres in Shawnee to pay for government services while their new hip competitors pay off loans is in a word, mean.

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