In support of several mayors and town officials, Gov. Peter Shumlin today proposed legislation relating to the state's tax increment financing (TIF) districts to ensure communities benefiting from the TIFs have clear rules to follow while ensuring oversight and enforcement, when needed, by the State.
"TIFs have been an important tool for promoting economic growth and opportunity for our historic downtowns and new town centers," the Governor said. He said that the rules of the road have not always been clear, leaving both the state and TIF district municipalities with uncertainty and risk. Standing with the Governor to highlight the need for clarification were lawmakers, mayors and officials from cities (Milton, St. Albans, Winooski, Burlington, Barre and Newport) that have received TIF approval, as well as business and community leaders.
Asking lawmakers to address this issue this session, the Governor outlined a proposal that would provide rulemaking, oversight and enforcement, clarify ambiguities in the current law, and safeguard taxpayer dollars.
"No matter what one's opinion is on the merits of tax increment financing, the status quo is not good for anyone," the Governor explained.
In addition, the Administration proposed resolving the disagreements created by the reports issued last year by the State Auditor's office. Cities and towns identified in that report have disputed its findings, and the state's ability to enforce any violations identified in the report is hampered by the lack of a clear enforcement mechanism in the current law. The Governor proposed to remedy this going forward by ensuring a clear path for state enforcement of municipality deficiencies in TIF implementation.
Finally, recognizing the unfortunate timing of last year's final TIF designation, the Governor proposed allowing a seventh TIF district for South Burlington.
Gov. Shumlin said the TIFs have provided a mechanism for the state to strengthen the economic vitality of Vermont downtowns like Winooski, which hosted today's media event. Other investment has also benefited downtowns, the Governor noted.
"We look forward to a further conversation with the Legislature, and our partners in local government, to ensure our existing TIFs provide infrastructure, encourage redevelopment and the creation of jobs, but also operate transparently and in the best interest of taxpayers going.