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Local governments in the St. Louis area have foregone $3.6 billion worth of tax revenue to subsidize private real estate development in the last 20 years, with another $2.2 billion in incentives still to come, according to a report out today from a regional planning agency.

The report, released this morning by the East-West Gateway Council of Governments, comes as two-thirds of local governments report that they are under "fiscal stress," and as lawmakers at the state level are re-thinking their use of incentives. It builds on a landmark TIF study the same agency issued two years ago, which found at least $2.2 billion had been spent through the controversial incentive program.

This time, East-West Gateway added other programs to their tally, including increasingly-popular transportation development districts, and some tax abatement programs. Some highlights:

  • 80 percent of spending on TIF and TDDs has been to fund retail projects.
  • Yet the region added just 5,400 retail jobs from 1993 to 2007.
  • Retail developments have become more concentrated in the region over the last two decades.
  • Taxable sales have been basically flat since 2000, meaning that regionwide sales tax revenue has been flat, too. About 60 percent of the region's municipalities saw sales tax revenue decline between 1993 and 2007.

The debate over TIF in the St. Louis region has been long and robust. Supporters say it's an essential tool to finance urban redevelopment. Critics agree, but say that it is too often misused to pay for shopping centers in affluent communities. The Post-Dispatch took a close look at it late last year as part of our Can St. Louis Compete? Series.

The report was released Wednesday morning at a meeting of East-West Gateway. Check back later today for more details.

P.S. Are you on Twitter? We are. Keep up with the latest in St. Louis-area real estate and development by following here.


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