Taxpayers foot the bill for foolish IDA funding

Industrial development agencies have mushroomed out of control. Originally, IDAs were set up to attract business to a region. A municipality empowered an IDA to dole out tax-exempt land to a business that might not otherwise set up shop in town. Then that power was extended to giving tax breaks to existing businesses that threatened to leave the region. Now, economic development has deteriorated to the point that IDAs simply shuffle existing businesses from one township to another. The state and local governments need to rein in IDAs before any more taxpayer dollars are squandered.

In large part, the problem stems from the number of IDAs in the region. Not only does Erie County have an IDA, but five towns within the county have their own IDAs: Amherst, Clarence, Concord, Hamburg and Lancaster. Neighboring townships should not be competing with one another over placement of business within a few miles. At the very least, IDAs should exist at no smaller than the county level. Counties are geographically large enough to negotiate with business. Counties encompass most of an area’s commuter watershed. If a business wants IDA help getting established in the region, it would have only one choice to work with.

The current system allows business to pit nearby IDAs against each other to squeeze out the best deal. In the end, the business gets its tax break and the IDA can claim credit for creating jobs that already existed. Residential property owners are left to fill the tax gap.

Nicholas Fischer