Up To Speed

Incentive-fueled competition between local governments is a failed experiment

Incentive-fueled competition between local governments is a failed experiment.

Kansas City is famous for its “border war” between Kansas and Missouri. The city, oddly enough, sits right on the state line and therefore the two states and counties are in constant competition to undercut one another and poach businesses for their side. Cincinnati’s “border war” is perhaps less publicized, but just as significant due to the fact that the greater downtown area sits in two states, three counties and five cities. The competition to lure businesses and people from one side to the other is counterproductive, and should end immediately. More from Governing Magazine:

For several decades we have been conducting an economic-policy experiment in state and local governments, and now it’s time to stop the testing because the results are clear: The dominant paradigm, incentive-fueled competition among these governments, does not create economic prosperity…Two big facts confirm this conclusion. First, as the New York Times reported last December, states, counties and cities are giving up more than $80 billion each year to companies in tax breaks, outright cash payments, and buildings and worker training. Second, the wages of the taxpayers who have been footing the bill for this stuff have been flat since at least 1979.

We need a national law that prohibits corporations from extracting bribes from state and local governments and bans governments from donating tax dollars to private entities — a sort of domestic equivalent of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits American companies from bribing foreign governments… It’s time for experiments aimed at testing and developing a new paradigm for economic development, one that channels capitalism’s strengths while protecting the commons and producing a more broadly shared version of prosperity.

By Randy A. Simes

Randy is an award-winning urban planner who founded UrbanCincy in May 2007. He grew up on Cincinnati’s west side in Covedale, and graduated from the University of Cincinnati’s nationally acclaimed School of Planning in June 2009. In addition to maintaining ownership and serving as the managing editor for UrbanCincy, Randy has worked professionally as a planning consultant throughout the United States, Korea and the Middle East. After brief stints in Atlanta and Chicago, he currently lives in the Daechi neighborhood of Seoul’s Gangnam district.