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Richard Piatt ReportingUtah lawmakers are in the process of neutralizing a program that was originally meant to attract businesses that bring jobs to cities. But there are concerns about abuse of Redevelopment Agency funding. And the proposed fix could affect a lot of projects.
Your eyes may glaze over when you hear RDA money. So let's put it like this: RDA money helped pay for the Delta Center, The Gateway, Gallivan Plaza and the E Center. And if this bill passes, it could affect a stadium for Salt Lake's new major league soccer team.
What this senate committee approved is striking concern in city officials across the state. Senate bill 184 would severely restrict the use of Redevelopment Agency money, often used as an economic development tool.
RDA money helped build the Delta Center; the city pitched in between 24 and 27 million dollars back in 1990. Small businesses on Salt Lake's Main street applied for up to 20-thousand dollars to help them get started. At the same time, there are concerns about abuse in Utah.
Critics point to financial incentives for a big-box retailer in Murray, which abandoned its site in Midvale. RDA money comes from property taxes, which also funds education, and is the sticking point.
Mike Jerman, Utah Taxpayers Association: "Using property tax money, mostly that could go to school districts, to subsidize big box, strip mall, or soccer stadium is not an appropriate use because this is economic activity that's already occurring."
A conservative citizens group organized in favor of the bill. They also point out one of our competitors on Salt Lake's main Street received a $2.8 million RDA loan last year---an incentive that an RDA official said could have been available to KSL, as well. The question is, do TV stations NEED such a loan?
Robin Bagley, Citizens Coalition for RDA Reform: "Those organizations don't need to be subsidized, they dont."
Camille Mendel, Citizens Coalition for RDA Reform: "It's a free market society. Let the market supply and demand generate new business."
But there is serious concern about Utah losing a competitive economic development tool here. First to be hurt are owners of Salt Lake's new major league soccer team, who were looking for RDA money to help build the stadium.
Dean House, Real Salt Lake: "Will it hamper it? It think so. Would the delta center be here without those dollars? I mean Larry Miller himself came up here and said it wouldn't happen without help from the legislature."
Statewide, 98 million goes to RDA projects. 48 million could go to schools if it's diverted away from economic development.