Kansas GOP Insider (wannabe): Taxpayers love subsidizing Cerner

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Taxpayers love subsidizing Cerner

Cerner, the mega corporation with a business model based almost solely on winning government contracts, will be dipping into taxpayer pockets again soon in a major way.

The good news, I guess, is that this time, the mega corp is taking from Missourians instead of Kansans. (Yay?) 

The Kansas City Tax Increment Financing (TIF) Commission just awarded Cerner the largest TIF in city history. TIF financing funnels property and sales tax dollars generated from a development project away from state/city coffers and back to the developer. In this case, the TIF would fund a $4.5 billion campus on the Bannister Mall site.

(Here's a cautionary tale about this development.)

In case anyone has missed it, I absolutely detest TIFs and abatements. I don't think taxpayers should have to subsidize big business. I have heard all of the arguments in support of these types of development financing agreements. And I reject them all. If development can't pay for itself, taxpayers shouldn't be asked to pay for it. (And I often wonder if the cost of development might be higher than it would be naturally because governments offer special financing.) 

The arguments go something like this: The $4.5 billion Cerner campus is going to bring so many jobs to Kansas City. 

Developers say it will bring 15,000 new jobs in the next 10 years. The problem is these types of promises are empty. No one ever goes back and double checks. There aren't any claw backs if those numbers don't pan out. Cerner developers say the jobs will be new to the area, but it's just as likely that they'll move people from the Kansas City, Kansas, campus --which is brand new, by the way-- to a new campus at Bannister. 

In order to use TIF financing, the area in question, Bannister, must be considered "blighted." Meh. I can't really argue with that. I am trying to find information about how the original Bannister Mall development was financed in the first place. I am too young to remember specifics, but I can almost guarantee that it received some sort of tax incentives at the time. So that was a raging success. Kind of like the Great Mall of the Great Plains.

This continuous game to redevelop the same property over and over again using tax incentives -- resulting in taxpayers subsidizing private, wealthy developers -- needs to stop. Like yesterday.

Meanwhile, Cerner is directly involved in plans to bring the American Royal to KCK. By the way, it appears that Kansas City, Kansas' Legends area, and Bannister Mall area have been competing for developments for quite some time. Definitely something for some enterprising reporter to do some in-depth research.

Taxpayers in Kansas City -- on both sides of the border -- are getting the shaft. 

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