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Editorial: Ballot proposal can boost economic development for low-income areas

Editorial: Ballot proposal can boost economic development for low-income areas

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In October 2018, people gather for the unveiling of the Reggie LeFlore mural titled “The Ancestor, The Identity, and The Seed,” on the southwest corner of 24th and Ohio Streets in North Omaha.

This year has seen a surge in discussion about how best to promote economic opportunity for all Americans, regardless of background. There’s consensus that if society can boost economic development in low-income neighborhoods, the chances will increase for progress along a range of dimensions.

Amendment 2, appearing on the November ballot, is a worthy effort to promote such advancement in Nebraska. The ballot measure deserves Nebraskans’ strong support.

State Sen. Justin Wayne of Omaha sponsored the proposal, explaining that it would return tax- increment financing — which Nebraska has used since the late 1970s to incentivize economic development — to its original aim: boosting the chances for development in low-income areas across the state.

Under the proposal, cities could pledge up to 20 years of the increased property taxes generated by a new development to costs associated with the project. At least half of the projects would have to be in an area declared as “extremely blighted” to qualify. The 20-year time frame would offer a greater benefit to developers than under the present policy, which limits the TIF benefit to 15 years.

To be designated as “extremely blighted” under state law, an area would need to have an average unemployment rate of at least 200% of the statewide average, with the average poverty rate exceeding 20%.

This new TIF approach can spur important new development, Wayne said during legislative debate, in North Omaha, part of which is in Wayne’s district, and South Omaha.

Areas elsewhere in the state that potentially could meet the requirements include parts of Fremont, Grand Island, Lincoln, Scottsbluff and South Sioux City.

In Omaha and in Nebraska as a whole, it’s vital that economic opportunity extend to all members of the community. This TIF proposal can be a major step to help Nebraskans who have been left behind, opening up chances for progress for families and neighborhoods.

Nebraskans can promote that important statewide goal by voting FOR Amendment 2.

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