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Letters to the Editor – 8/12/11

Boyd’s State Center column ignores report’s key findings

Laslo Boyd’s Aug. 8 commentary criticizes a report released by the Maryland Public Policy Institute in early July that estimates the public subsidies associated with the State Center redevelopment project.

Unfortunately, Mr. Boyd’s [column] repeats the same tired and baseless allegations of distortions and partisanship while conveniently ignoring the detailed response prepared by the report’s authors and available at the Institute’s website.

As we noted in that response, our information is drawn from public documents — a detail which no one is willing to contest. Furthermore, our criticism is not so much directed at the cost of the project as the amount which will be subsidized by state taxpayers.

If the State Center project truly represented $1.5 billion of private investment in the city, we would have nothing but praise. The trouble is that none of the project’s supporters seem willing to ask — or even allow others to ask — about what portion of that money will come from the public.

Naturally, our report considers the project in light of current economic conditions rather than future conditions that no one — not even Mr. Boyd — can predict. Supporters of the project are quick to point out that future phases will only be built if market conditions are favorable, yet at the same time they tout the jobs and tax revenues associated with those future phases as if they were a sure thing.

While everyone agrees that the city will see increased tax revenues thanks to the project, there are big questions about exactly how much, as well as what portion, will actually accrue to the city’s general fund. And we shouldn’t forget who will actually be paying those taxes: the state, in the form of rent.

But the biggest question we all face is whether a project originally conceived in 2005, pre-recession and when the state had a budget surplus, is still viable six years later.

Gabriel J. Michael

Senior Fellow

Maryland Public Policy Institute