Newark's Path to Prosperity
I gave the following speech before council this evening:
"Economic growth should always be celebrated. As of late, we’ve heard and read a great deal of praise about job creation at the national, state, and even local level. Then again, we need to be sure that the gains are enjoyed by all who are willing to work hard. Right now, despite our large pool of citizens ready and able to work as productive members of society; their options leave much to be desired.You may ask yourself: how can we turn things around? Aren’t we all merely at the market’s unpredictable mercy? Not entirely. At a local level, the government can contribute to minimizing income inequality – in part - by reserving its tax incentives for the creation of living wage jobs. Let’s be honest, the people of Newark need something better and more reliable than part-time or temporary work.
What will it take to build the economy we need? What are the prospective job-creators telling us that they want? What are we asking the businesses already here to contribute? What is the game plan and at what point are we supposed to see the fruits thereof?
How much revenue has the city lost as a result of the tax abatements we’ve given? In what way have the people of Newark benefited from their city government starving itself? Would it not be preferable to withhold these types of temporary tax breaks for the businesses willing to both pay their fair share when the time comes as well as replace the revenue lost by way of hiring workers to be paid enough that their income taxes can pick up the tab? Not only would this help us turn the corner in tax collection, but it could rebuild our social mobility, thus making Newark a better, more satisfying place to live.
Although making a tax-free appeal to newcomers is part of a locale’s duties to inspire growth, one thing that needs to change in every community is the duration of said abatements and the ability to get an eternal series of renewals each time it expires. At a certain point this free ride has to end, and a cap should be set. If your business is unwilling to or incapable of contributing to the city’s services like everyone else, then perhaps it is time to reevaluate your goals. What is the point of property taxes if every eligible property isn’t taxed consistently?
After all, who inherits the burden of taxes when a few aren’t paying their part? The answer is that everyone pays a higher price both in our direct taxation and in the indirect cost through the services cut when there isn’t enough money. For this reason, we need a serious conversation about how best to develop a sustainable future. Through a smarter set of policies, we can set out to attract the jobs Newark needs and begin to restore our hope.
No one likes to talk about taxes, but we can’t pretend that our only budget problem is that we spend too much on wasteful things like paying firefighters and police dispatchers. Pledging an incentive to new businesses is understandable, and it would be great if we could continue to offer everyone this perk in perpetuity. However, just as it is unrealistic and fiscally irresponsible for us to say we’re going to fully fund every project that we’d like the city to tackle; it is likewise inappropriate for us to keep passing the proverbial buck on funding the city.
Again, I’m not saying that we should eradicate tax abatements altogether, just that we utilize such in a way which will benefit the whole of Newark in the long-run."