Friday, December 30, 2005

DES MOINES PARTNERSHIP LEGISLATIVE AGENDA: ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT SNAKE-OIL

The Greater Des Moines Partnership, the umbrella group for the local chambers of commerce, has come out with a "legislative agenda" (link is to press release summary) for 2005. It is a wish list for professional local "economic development" specialists (e.g., Mike Blouin) whose stock in trade is subsidies and special favors. In other words, it is more of the same old stuff that puts our state dead last in entrepreneurship.

The whole agenda is available here in an attractive pdf format. The press release summarizes what we assume are the points they want to push hardest.

Property Tax Equity for Businesses – Recognizing that Iowa’s current property tax system places an increasingly undue burden on commercial and industrial properties, the Partnership supports a simplified property tax system that is equitable to all classes of property and more competitive with neighboring states.

If they'd just stopped here, it wouldn't have been so bad.

Health Insurance Tax Credits for Small Businesses - The Partnership supports focused tax credits, especially for small businesses, to increase the affordability of private health insurance and decrease the number of uninsured Iowans.


There's no way the state could afford to provide such a credit to a large enough group of employers to make a difference. It's safe to assume that any such plan could only leave most taxpayers subsidizing the employment costs of a politically-favored set of employers.

Iowa Certified Capital Companies (CAPCOs) – The Partnership supports the creation of CAPCOs and premium tax credits to encourage targeted Iowa venture capital investments by the insurance industry.


Another venture capital tax credit on top of the four we already have. Yeah, that'll work.

Biosciences Alliance of Iowa (BAI) Investment - BAI was established as an Iowa Department of Economic Development (IDED) advisory committee to focus state investments and efforts in key bioscience areas. The Partnership supports IDED’s request for $16.4 million in new investment to fund BAI priorities, which will be reviewed by the business community.


Glossary: "Key bioscience areas" equal "companies with effective lobbyists."

"$16.4 million in new investment to fund BAI priorities" = $16.4 million of taxpayer funding of private businesses.

Historic Property Rehabilitation Tax Credits – The Partnership supports raising the cap on Historic Property Rehabilitation Tax Credits to $20 million per year.


Just about every old warehouse and office building in downtown Des Moines is being turned into condos and apartments at the current level of credits. This provision would provide an additional $10 million of credits to fund commercial and residential rental space to compete with vacant space already built and operated by private unsubsidized taxpayers. They would pay taxes for even larger subsidies for their competitors.

West Capitol Terrace - The Partnership supports the State’s efforts to fund and develop the proposed West Capitol Terrace park and green space between the Capitol and the East Village.


Fine.

Eminent Domain - The Partnership opposes any changes to Iowa’s eminent domain law that would restrict urban renewal efforts. The Partnership does support a change to allow condemnation of agricultural land for multi-use trails, which will aid efforts to connect public regional trails networks.


Translation: The Partnership opposes any attempts to interfere with the efforts of well-connected developers to use their friends in government to sieze coveted property from less well-connected taxpayers.

Enabling private owners to use the government to sieze property from other private owners in the name of "urban renewal" is a bad idea for so many reasons, it's hard to know where to start. Not only are such takeovers grossly and manifestly unfair, they are terrible for development long-term. If developers can take over the property of ZZZ Records against its wishes, it will be a cold day before somebody else takes a flyer on a promising but risky project in a run-down area. Why stick your neck out when a well-connected developer can push you out just as the area becomes trendy?

It doesn't get any better when you look at the full agenda. If this is the best the business community can come up with, Iowa can feel secure in its place at the bottom of the barrel for startup businesses.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

I WONDER IF THIS MEANS I CAN GET A HOGWARTS TOUR

Harry Potter is non-fiction! Tyler Cowan says so:

What were the most blogged about books in 2005?

Tyler Cowen

Here is a New York Times list, no permalink yet. The data are drawn from an automated survey of the top 5000 blogs. Freakonomics, Harry Potter, Blink, and The World is Flat lead the list. Jared Diamond has two in the top ten. Surowiecki's Wisdom of Crowds is #12. The first work of fiction is The da Vinci Code at #10. Orwell and Narnia are not far behind. I conclude, tentatively, that the blogosphere is increasing the influence of non-fiction books, relative to fiction.


It does seem strange things happen when I'm around. Ah, but I never got my owl...

Friday, December 02, 2005

Why?

I have a work blog. I have to behave there. Here, I can let the hair I still have down. A little. Thanks for visiting.