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Tax Plan Means Wealth, Not Welfare

Communities around the world would kill to land Micron’s $1.3 billion expansion plant. The project promises more than 3,000 jobs and some $29 million in annual tax revenue.

But in Kootenai County, considered one of the front-runners in the Micron sweepstakes, two towns are on the verge of fumbling away this economic chance of a lifetime.

On Tuesday, Post Falls and Rathdrum will decide whether their voters or their elected officials are in charge of offering tax-increment financing to lure companies like Micron.

This initiative reflects democratic micro-management at its worst.

City councils are elected to handle complicated issues like this and in Post Falls’ case shouldn’t be hamstrung by a wrongheaded ordinance, promoted by the Kootenai County Property Owners Association.

The Spokesman-Review editorial board urges Post Falls residents to vote no on their special initiative but supports a yes vote on the Rathdrum advisory question.

Confused? So is the wording of the Post Falls ballot measure.

If the Post Falls initiative passes, city officials would be required to seek voter approval every time they wanted to use the financing scheme. Micron and the International Expo megamall aren’t mentioned, but they’re the primary targets of this vote.

Basically, the initiative would tie the city’s hands and put an end to this creative plum, used by Post Falls to attract the Harper’s furniture plant.

In Rathdrum, meanwhile, voters will decide if they want the City Council using tax deferrals to attract business.

Opponents have labeled tax-increment financing as “corporate welfare.” It’s not.

Such financing allows bonds to be sold to pay for roads, sewer hookups and other infrastructure. Tax revenue that developers pay on associated land improvements then is used to repay the bonds.

Post Falls leaders, like Mayor Jim Hammond, have worked for years to drive down property taxes by improving the mix of commercial, industrial and residential properties. Now, only 34 percent of the town’s revenues come from business.

Micron dramatically would improve that mix.

Kootenai County - with seven sites to offer in Post Falls and Rathdrum - is one of 13 finalists for the new Micron plant.

It would be shameful if misinformation, confusion and anti-growth hysteria killed this goose that is about to lay many golden eggs.

The following fields overflowed: SUPCAT = EDITORIAL, ENDORSEMENT, COLUMN - Our view CREDIT = D.F. Oliveria/For the editorial board