Sales-Tax TIF for Cedar Rapids: Poor Solution to Big Need / Better Alternatives Exist for Financing Flood Protection

Source: Peter S. Fisner, IFP Policy Brief, March 30, 2011

Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett has come calling at the State Capitol seeking support for a plan to help his city recover from the devastating floods of 2008. He arrived with a plan that lawmakers have seen before from others — and approved with the promise that it was a one-time arrangement.

The proposal: a tax-increment financing plan using sales-tax revenues, known as a sales-tax TIF. (The city calls it a “Growth Reinvestment Initiative” or GRI.) This would permit diversion of sales-tax revenue from the state general fund to local projects, much as lawmakers permitted in 2005 for the Iowa Speedway project in Newton, but on a much larger scale. That arrangement was for a maximum of $12.5 million; the Cedar Rapids proposal would cost $200 million to $214 million over 20 years.

Simply put, the rest of Iowa would be paying for the cost of Cedar Rapids flood levee construction, to the tune of $14 million per year for 15 years

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