What could Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and City Council members have been thinking when they authorized a $100 million tax subsidy for CityNorth, a private development planned for northeast Phoenix?
We may never know, but businesses planning to expand or relocate have become expert at conning government officials into thinking they wont come but for government incentives. The take nationally comes to $50 billion yearly, according to Alan Peters and Peter Fisher of the University of Iowa.
In fact, the annual conference of the State Government Affairs Council, an organization of corporate government relations types, once heard a presentation titled Turn Your State Government Relations Department from a Money Pit to a Cash Cow. Attendees were advised to use the but for strategy to convince policymakers to pay them to do what they were going to do anyway.
Phoenix also committed a strategic blunder. Last year the legislature was poised to pass a bill to force cities to end this practice. The cities were able to avert its passage by promising to self-police.
Maybe in the end, thats the good part. The legislature bent over backwards to respect local control, and now has no reasonable choice but to act.
Tom Patterson is Chairman of the Goldwater Institute and a retired emergency room physician and state legislator. A longer version of this article originally ran in the East Valley Tribune.