Public subsidies for private businesses are generally not a good idea but theres a reason the Minnesota Legislatures four legislative leaders (from both parties) are supporting financial help for the Mall of America.
Mall owners want to add 5.6 million square feet of retail, office and entertainment space, placing the MOA back on top as the nations largest mall. Make no doubt about it. As fond as Minnesotans are of Paul Bunyan, the Mississippi headwaters and Split Rock lighthouse, the Mall of America is far and away the states biggest tourist draw. It currently draws 40 million visitors a year and developers hope the expansion will boost that number to 60 million.
How is the Mall of Americas request different from the public money requests that are made by professional sports franchises? The number of tourists drawn by the mall dwarfs the number of tourists who might come to see a professional sports team. And the mall attracts tourists year-round.
A portion of the malls development money would be raised by authorizing Bloomington to raise sales, lodging and restaurant taxes. This makes sense since those businesses will profit from increased traffic. The controversial aspect of the mall proposal is the diverting of $5 million in property taxes from a fiscal disparities pool for the malls expansion.
We think this departure from tax-policy-as-usual is justified and the tipping point is 7,000 construction jobs which are expected to be produced during the projects 40-month construction schedule. Thats just the shot in the arm Minnesotas economy needs during this doldrums period.
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