Monday, August 23, 2010

Taxpayers Can’t Afford to Subsidize another Atlantic Station by DeKalb Commissioner Elaine Boyer

By Elaine Boyer

Milton Friedman, Nobel laureate and economic advisor to Ronald Reagan, coined a memorable term that withstands the test of time in economics and politics: “There is no such thing as a free lunch.”

DeKalb County’s CEO Burrell Ellis, the county’s development authority and a private developer seeking to remodel the former General Motors plant in Doraville might consider that wisdom. Taxpayers would wind up on the hook for this 165-acre project deemed to be the region’s next Atlantic Station.

The so-called “free money” or federal stimulus money being touted for this project along Interstate 285 is nothing more than $36 million in bonds that someone would have to pay off. That someone is DeKalb County taxpayers.

It was revealed last week that to cover the cost of the bonds of the mixed-used project offered by New Broad Street, the county would levy a 1 percent sales tax or a .12 property tax increase. The 10,000 residents of the city of Doraville also would pay a 33 percent property tax hike.

There is nothing free or beneficial about this deal at all to the residents of our county.

The audacity of county officials and the private developer is what has turned the American public against government in this age of tea parties and hostility toward incumbents. Ever since the 2008, $787 billion federal bank bailout, taxpayers have had enough of government financing of anything in the private sector.

All they hear about is bailouts ranging from a proposed $23 billion bailout for teachers; to rescue packages for Chrysler, Ford and GM’s corporate headquarters in Detroit. And let’s not forget about Bear Stearns and other financials saved by American taxpayers and the ability of our federal government to print money with no forethought of what would do to our economy and the lives of our children and grandchildren.

Here in DeKalb, our local economy is suffering just as is the rest of the nation. The county’s unemployment rate is 9 percent, and homeowners can’t afford a property tax increase for another retail, office and multi-family complex. Nor should our sales rise to the highest in the region to pay for such a development – no matter how many jobs it might create.

It used to be when the private sector wanted to build a restaurant, a dry cleaner’s or a shoe store, for example, it loaned the money to an investor who took the risk. The builder never expected taxpayers to help foot the bill. Today, too many developers are seeking corporate welfare to finance their projects. If New Broad Street or another firm doesn’t have the cash to rebuild the GM site, then it shouldn’t do it. The taxpayers are not a bank.

Drive into the suburbs or virtually anywhere in the Atlanta region and there are empty storefronts, shopping centers, apartment complexes and office buildings, thanks to this Great Recession. The last thing we need to do is use taxpayer money to add to the supply.

Economics revolves around supply and demand. For the Atlanta economy to rebound to a sustainable condition, government must get out of the way and let market forces align so it can recover on its own. The economist Friedman was also quoted as saying: “Governments never learn. Only people learn.” Let’s hope this worst recession since the Great Depression will teach elected officials a lesson. Let taxpayers keep more of their own money.

Boyer, a Republican, represents District 1 on the DeKalb County Board of Commissioners which includes Doraville and the site of the General Motors plant.

No comments: