Sunday, September 02, 2007

Tax Burden Shift For Business Incentives Is Whopping

The Star's Karen Esbacher has an excellent featured story in today's paper highlighting the magnitude of the property tax burden shift from businesses to homeowners. Last year alone, more than $70 million in tax breaks were provided to businesses in Marion Co., while individuals have been socked with a $90 million, 65% increase in their income taxes on top of the record-breaking property tax increases many homeowners are facing this year. Esbacher's story is accompanied by a helpful online database, which allows you to look up every business receiving a tax abatement in Marion Co., along with the associated tax savings. The numbers are staggering.

"Without them, businesses say, many projects would not move forward[.], [b]ut these perks are now facing more scrutiny in light of soaring residential property tax bills and concerns that they unfairly benefit some taxpayers at the expense of others," Esbacher writes. Yet, I was hard-pressed upon engaging in a brief search of the businesses in the downtown area to find one which wasn't benefitting from a tax abatement. Check out the businesses along the canal. The Sextons are getting millions in tax-saving abatements on apartments for which there was little risk of investment in what is clearly one of the hottest spots going in downtown Indianapolis. Everybody is getting in on the tax abatement gig. Look at long-standing downtown buildings getting tax abatements this year, including:

Indianapolis Power & Light ($2,490,627)
Convention Hotel Partners ($1,990,751)
Kite Washington ($648,622)
First Indiana ($101,284)
Guaranty Holdings ($96,835)
Landmark ($92,627)
Hotel Properties ($127,427)
Hoosier Retail Flats ($18,107)
University Park Associates ($13,340--business address for Baker & Daniels, 300 N. Meridian)
101 W. Ohio ($6,752)
Cougar Realty Partners ($4,345)
Market Tower ($3,831)
Eop-Monument Center ($1,113)
Jimmy John's ($269)

And the list just goes on. On top of all the abatement, over $50 million last year got funnelled into development work benefitting businesses located in tax increment finance (TIF) districts. Check out the size of the TIF created to benefit Circle Centre Mall. "The district stretches roughly from Lilly south of Downtown to Methodist Hospital on the Near Northside," Esbacher writes. "Since 1993, it has collected and spent more than $331 million in property taxes, including more than $36 million last year, according to the Indianapolis Local Public Improvement Bond Bank." That's all money that is diverted away from other taxing districts like the Indianapolis Public Schools. "Most of that has been used to pay debt service on mall construction bonds, though it also has paid for a handful of other Downtown projects, such as work at Union Station," Barb Lawrence noted. "More than $340 million in principal is still outstanding on the bonds."

I suspect many of you will have the same reaction to all these tax give-aways as I've had, but not everyone shares those sentiments. Jen Wagner at Taking Down Words writes today about Esbacher's excellent story, "It's well done, and hopefully it will make the wingnuts and fringies think twice before they start railing against incentives for economic development." Sorry, Jen, but it's going to take a little bit better spinning on your part to assuage angry homeowners in this election year than to simply castigate them as "wingnuts and fringies".

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

The MSA site will make the list also.

Anonymous said...

Heck with developing MSA Site!!!!!
I would think that the needs of the local Justice system would be better served if the City leaders would do the following.......
between Delaware and Alabama streets (just north of the jail) is a parking lot.......... they should make a trade to the owner for one of the gravel lots (MSA site). Use the parking lot and build a jail with the APC facility in it and connect it to the existing MCSD jail. Take the other gravel lot (MSA site) and build a Justice Center/Courthouse housing ALL of the Courts, the Prosecutors and the Public Defenders offices.

Anonymous said...

Taking Down Words' defense of this shows how craven modern-day socialists can be....nobody on the left even complained about the $600 million in tax money for the new Colts stadium.

NAACP said nothing against it. Urban League said nothing against it. Acorn said nothing against it.

The biggest government possible - thru socialism - is the aim of the far left.

Anonymous said...

I would have to think that 101 W Ohio's abatements are based on the large percentage of square footage that is occupied by state and federal government offices. Off the top of my head, I can think of an Indiana State University center, the IN Department of Education, US Bankruptcy Trustees, EEOC, FDA, HHS and the US Public Health Service, though I'm sure there are probably others.

I wonder how many other sites that have received abatements or exemptions also house government offices like that. Then again, 101 W Ohio is also where Eric Miller's organization and law firm are located.

Wilson46201 said...

That $600 million new stadium financing was arranged through that Communist Bolshevik Mitch Daniels and his Stalinist toadies in county governments surrounding Indianapolis. Marxism-Leninism has triumphed in the Statehouse...

Advance Indiana said...

The 101 W. Ohio abatement has nothing to do with the government or NFP-exempt property. That is an abatement for a private business otherwise required to pay property taxes.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Wilson invoked Stalin, Lenin and Marx in a single incongruent sentence!

http://www2.indystar.com/articles/1/206899-3571-253.html
recorded how this really transpired:

On Dec. 19, 2004, after three years of on-again, off-again negotiations, Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson and Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay triumphantly declared ?we have a deal? to keep the Colts in the city for at least 30 more years.

But the centerpiece of that deal was an agreement that the city would build a new stadium downtown at a cost of $600 million. Coupled with a much-needed expansion of the Indiana Convention Center, the combined project would have a price tag of $900 million.

Peterson turned to the Indiana General Assembly for help with the financing. Legislators balked at Peterson's gambling-based funding proposal, but also rejected a series of alternative plans. The bill finally passed on April 30, 2005.

Three years of wheel-spinning by Democrat toadies (Bart and the CIB buffoons) that went nowhere and Mitch wrestled the project out of Bart's control, otherwise Bart's name would have been on the mortgage papers vs. Mitch's. So Bart being an incompetent boob in the negotiations is cause for labelling Mitch as a communist?

Damn, Bart's boys are running scared, or so it sounds. They've started their smear campaign.

Anonymous said...

2:43, and anyone else within the sound of my cybervoice, get this (you will pardon the expression) straight:

I don't know if the Peterson campaign will start a negative campaign.

But this much I DO know: Wilson is nowhere near their decision-making apparatus.

If he chooses to "go negative" on blogs, it will not be directed by the Peterson folks.

In fact, they'd just as soon he kept quiet.

That tidbit aside, today's article was fascinating and well-done.

Where the Peterson folks are trying to sharpen their pencils is enforcement after the fact. Ergo the Conrad audit. You can't really audit a new hotel's books until 18-24 months of business, or a full cycle of conventions and annualized business.

They wanted that hotel. They got it. Now, as equity investors, I just wanna know: where is my junior suite when I need it for overflow housegusts?

:-)

Anonymous said...

Did Ms. Wagner forget to disclose her husband earns a living at Indy Partnership, where he spends all day trying to give away tax abatements to businesses?

Wilson46201 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wilson46201 said...

Concerning my remarks about Your Man Mitch and his alleged collectivist proclivities: are you really that deaf to irony and hyperbole?

Anonymous said...

It is agreed that business won't locate without incentives ala property tax abatements. All we hear is how great that is for the city and state. Rather ironic that any eliminating totally of property taxes when it includes the homeowner is so impossible to them.They have a cash cow and they don't want to free us. Time to eliminate all property taxes. If it's wonderful to abate the taxes, think how wonderful eliminating them for all will be!!!!!!

Wilson46201 said...

It'd be way cool to have a perpetual motion machine in every home to solve the energy crisis, abolish gravity so everybody could fly cheaply and a return to the gold standard for sound money!

Anonymous said...

Sound machine? Hyperbole?

Please, Gary...make it stop!

Anonymous said...

Gary,

I realize there is no statutory abatement for renting to NPs or units of government. I was suggesting that it is not unreasonable for a property owner to receive a partial abatement when it houses tenants who otherwise wouldn't be taxable. Ideally, that abatement would be proportional to the square footage occupied by such an organization.

That situation is obviously different from an abatement for a hotel or a sandwich shop.

Anonymous said...

What I find so incredible about these "arrangements" is that they show just how little Indianapolis has changed.
One may be able to count on one hand the number of black businessmen or black businesses that are getting special tax treatment, especially in the Mile Square area.
Yet more incredibly, the Carsonocratic Democratic Machine of Center Township is raising taxes on it's own black community via increased property and income taxes and then they vote to give the money to these white businessmen via abatements.
Tax abatements are great according to Jen Wagner, but as the article shows, only if you are white.
White Mayor, White Democratic Chairman, White Developers go figure.
Sure, if I were black I'd most certainly vote for Peterson again wouldn't you.

Anonymous said...

That $600 million new stadium financing was arranged through that Communist Bolshevik Mitch Daniels and his Stalinist toadies in county governments surrounding Indianapolis. Marxism-Leninism has triumphed in the Statehouse...

Yup. It only goes to show you the only real "free" places are those in less populated states where "I want....!"s are few and far between.

Bart had a better idea: Slot machines. He likely figured that with all the people loosing their homes due to ARMs and property taxes going sky high, many would turn to the slots in their time of hardship.

Jen said...

As much as you'd like to make this about me (which I know amuses your trolls) or about partisan politics, Gary, I think you'll find pretty widespread support across party lines for these types of incentives.

After all, who got the Circle Centre ball rolling?

Who brags all the time about bringing Honda here -- with incentives?

The "wingnuts and fringies" comment was directed at the Scott Schneiders and Jim Bradfords of the world, who think it ought to be enough just to cross your fingers and wish real hard that businesses would locate here.

They've got other options, and we have to be competitive. That means trading off a little money on the table for long-term investment.

If a business fails to meet its incentive requirements, it doesn't get the incentive. And TIF district money goes back into developing the district itself. (If you'll recall, the City clawed back quite a bit of money when United backed out of its commitment at the airport several years ago.)

Also, you conveniently overlooked the fact that Eschbacher's article clearly states that abatements and TIF districts don't cost as much as fully exempted property, such as churches and non-profits.

If this isn't even the largest part of the problem, why are you so obsessed with it?

Or is it just that we're within 90 days of an election, and you're doing your best to shore up another losing candidate with blind allegiance and weak arguments?

Advance Indiana said...

The incentive game has gotten completely out of hand. When tax abatements were first conceived, they were reserved for special circumstances. Today, they are handed out as a matter of course. Virtually every business on the canal received a tax abatement. Office buildings are receiving tax abatements, a Jimmy John's sub shop gets a tax abatement as does a Gold's Gym. Every hotel built in the downtown area is given a tax abatement. Aren't we already subsidizing those hotels by building a huge convention center, Conseco Fieldhouse and the Colts Stadium at taxpayer's expenses? And the fact is that government does not reclaim those incentives when the business fails to live up to the promises. Do you think the city plans to take back anything from Lilly because it's been reducing its workforce in the city instead of expanding it as promised? This really is a constitutional issue. If our courts enforced the equal protection clause in the area of taxation as it should, these types of benefits would not be possible because they would be declared unconstitutional. They simply breed mistrust and animosity among taxpayers towards their government. Government arbitrarily picks winner and losers. Every time a business is given another tax break, everyone who didn't get that tax break has to pay more money to the government. Indianapolis is losing businesses at a faster rate than it can hand out incentives to new businesses. And as for those NFPs, the city shares in the blame. It has actually gone out of its way to lure NFPs to the city.

Anonymous said...

Jimmy John's... a sub shop gets a tax break?

Michael Maier said...

Two things:

"The biggest government possible - thru socialism - is the aim of the far left."

Check out your facts. These days the Republicans are doing little to nothing to stem the tide of growing government at all levels.

The fight isn't really Dem vs. Rep anymore. It's anarchist vs. totalitarianism. And both the major parties are FOR controlling every aspects of your life.

"One may be able to count on one hand the number of black businessmen or black businesses that are getting special tax treatment, especially in the Mile Square area."

Cry me a river. How many black business were denied abatements? I suspect none, else you'd be crowing about them as they'd undoubtedly be covered in the Star. Please. If they don't come to build it, they don't get to screw the taxpayers.

And it's not as though most whites are seeing any benefits of the these abatements either. Those of us in semi-hood neighborhoods get exactly jack squat from all this largesse.

Anonymous said...

Wilson,Did yo forget that it was BART PETERSON who GAVE Irsay $48 million back for breaking the lease on the RCA Dome?
Peterson also GAVE Irsay 1/2 of ALL non-football revenue from the new staduim, and ALL the fotball revenue.
Peterson also GAVE irsay the money from the naming rights.
Peterson also GAVE Irsay 1/2 of ALL the concession profits.
Irsay does NOT pay one dime for this new staduim, but gets at least 1/2 of the revenue.
Peterson GIVES and GIVES to his rich friends.
Peterson could not do this deal alone because of all his GIVE AWAYS, so Mitch bailed him out because Irsay DID threaten to leave town if we didn't GIVE him a new stadium.
Yes, Mitch does a lot of underhanded crap, just like Peterson does. But Mitch does it all himself, Peterson has someone else do it for him. No spine!!!

Jen,... as far a "losing candidate", we;ll just have to wait until Nov 6 to see who the loser is.
Both candidates have strenghts and SEVERE weaknesses.
Ballards weakness is money, or lack thereof.
Petersons weakness is Wilson Allen won't shut the F up.
Obviously, the Peterson campaign LOVES Wilson because they won't silence him.
Wilson IS the spokesperson for Bart Peterson, even if it is "unofficial"

Wanna make a friendly wager?
I'll bet lunch at McDonalds that SEVERAL polls, in high republican areas, don't open on time due to "lack of manpower". That will be orchestrated by the current administration. EVERY POLL open on time, for the full 12 hours, I owe you a lunch, if not, you owe me?
Simple bet, if your willing.
Since you're expecting, you can even put mustard on your cookies!!!

Larry Williams said...

" The incentive game has gotten completely out of hand. When tax abatements were first conceived, they were reserved for special circumstances. Today, they are handed out as a matter of course. Virtually every business on the canal received a tax abatement. Office buildings are receiving tax abatements, a Jimmy John's sub shop gets a tax abatement as does a Gold's Gym. Every hotel built in the downtown area is given a tax abatement. Aren't we already subsidizing those hotels by building a huge convention center, Conseco Fieldhouse and the Colts Stadium at taxpayer's expenses? And the fact is that government does not reclaim those incentives when the business fails to live up to the promises. Do you think the city plans to take back anything from Lilly because it's been reducing its workforce in the city instead of expanding it as promised? This really is a constitutional issue. If our courts enforced the equal protection clause in the area of taxation as it should, these types of benefits would not be possible because they would be declared unconstitutional. They simply breed mistrust and animosity among taxpayers towards their government. Government arbitrarily picks winner and losers. Every time a business is given another tax break, everyone who didn't get that tax break has to pay more money to the government. Indianapolis is losing businesses at a faster rate than it can hand out incentives to new businesses. And as for those NFPs, the city shares in the blame. It has actually gone out of its way to lure NFPs to the city."

Great response, particularly the reference to the constitutionality of this game playing!