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Infinite Earth Radio – weekly conversations with leaders building smarter, more sustainable, and equitable communities - Michael Hancox EPISODE 67, 13th April 2017
Sales Tax Distribution – Equity and Sustainability
00:00:00 00:24:24

Sales Tax Distribution – Equity and Sustainability


Sales Tax Issues and Impacts

In This Episode:

[02:27] Guests Bob Lewis, Jim Brasfield, and Sarah Coffin are introduced.

[02:57] Jim shares why he’s interested in sales tax and distribution equity.

[03:18] Bob tells why he’s interested in sales tax and distribution equity.

[03:52] Bob talks about his role as Principal at Development Strategies.

[04:13] Sarah speaks about why she’s interested in sales tax and distribution equity.

[04:55] Bob gives his view of what sales tax distribution equity is.

[06:13] Jim explains where sales tax money goes and what it pays for.

[08:15] Sarah shares what the negatives of sales tax distribution are.

[09:43] Bob speaks about how the sales tax system drives land-use decisions.

[11:30] Who decides who is a point-of-sale city?

[12:54] Mike speaks of the incentives for more commercial development than housing development.

[13:51] Sarah comments about the zoning decisions made by local governments and the affordable-housing issue.

[14:48] How do we fix the problem of poorer communities going to rich communities to shop and the rich communities taking the sales tax?

[16:26] Is there any property tax sharing or is it just the sales tax?

[17:31] Mike mentions the challenges of too many local governments and overlapping jurisdictions.

[18:02] Bob adds to the conversation of sharing the costs.

[18:55] Sarah reflects on how St. Louis County supports its cultural districts.

[20:23] Are there any words of wisdom for other parts of the country that aren’t doing sales tax sharing?


Jim Brasfield is Emeritus Professor of Management at the George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology at Webster University, and former Chair of the Department of Management for nineteen years. He has been on the faculty of Webster University since 1976. He has a Ph.D. in political science from Case Western Reserve University (1973) and MA in Political Science from St. Louis University. He was Mayor of the City of Crestwood from 1996 to 2002 and on the Crestwood Board of Alderman from 1978 to 2006. He has been President of the St. Louis County Municipal League and the President of the Board of the Greater St. Louis Health System Agency.   Since 2000 he has been a member of the Government Relations Committee of the Gateway Chapter of the MS Society. He was President of the Webster University Faculty Senate from 2001 to 2007. Currently he is a member of the Municipal Parks Grant Commission and the Board of Directors of Voyce. He is a past President of the Organized Section on Health Politics and Policy of the American Political Science Association, and was Book Review Editor of the Journal of Health Politics, Policy and Law from 2010 to 2016.  In 2011 his book Health Policy: The Decade Ahead was published by Lynne Rienner Publishers. Learn more about Jim.

Dr. Sarah Coffin is an associate professor of urban planning at Saint Louis University in the School of Social Work where she directs the masters in Urban Planning and Development Program. Trained as an urban planner, Dr. Coffin’s work focuses on the impacts of brownfields on weak market economies and examining the role that common development tools like tax increment financing and tax credits play in local economic development planning practice in these post-industrial regions. Her work draws on both primary and secondary data sources, focusing primarily on property data. She has published work that examines the impacts of brownfields, vacant properties, and more recently development incentives on weak market economies and whether new ways of framing the redevelopment question might provide positive benefits for distressed communities. In addition, Dr. Coffin served as the principal investigator for the university team that supported data support for the St Louis Region’s sustainability plan, OneSTL. In that role she lead the effort to establish a regional data portal called the St Louis Regional Data Exchange as a means to promote further open data opportunities across the region. Dr. Coffin holds a Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning from the Georgia Institute of Technology, a Master’s degree in Urban Planning, Design, and Development from the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University, and a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration from Lake Erie College and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. Learn more about Sarah and her research here. 

Robert (Bob) M. Lewis, FAICP, CEcD, is the Principal at Development Strategies. Bob directs economic planning and implementation assignments at Development Strategies, based in St. Louis. He was part of the team that created Development Strategies in 1988 after ten years with Team Four and two years with the St. Louis County Department of Planning. The focus of his professional work is analyzing the market, economic, and organizational forces that influence urban development and economic growth.  His consulting services yield strategic recommendations for clients seeking to maximize economic value. Clients include state and local governments, private property owners and developers, corporations, government agencies, non-profits, and institutions all around the USA. A native of Glencoe, Illinois, in the Chicago area, Bob holds a master’s degree in city and regional planning from Southern Illi­nois University at Edwardsville (1976) and a bachelor’s degree in business economics from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio (1973). Learn more about Bob.

Take Away Quotes:

“In St. Louis County, when you buy something at a store, depending on the kind of city you live in, the money goes in a pool and is distributed to other cities around the county, or if you are in a city that is a point-of-sales city, it means that most, but not all, of the money goes to that particular city. And one of the unique things about St. Louis County, and I think fairly unique in the country, is that the point-of-sale cities share about twenty percent of the total revenue collected in sales tax with other cities in the county on a per capita sharing.”

“The jobs-housing mismatch is a challenge for St. Louis, and some of the research I’ve done on tax increment financing (TIF), those communities that are wealthier communities, that are low-minority, low-poverty communities, are the one’s that…use their TIF tool for retail, to promote retail sales, which is then those large clusters of low-wage jobs, which are the jobs that a lot of the poor people need, but they’re located further out in the county, whereas in the poorer communities, the more distressed communities tend to focus on residential TIFs and mixed-use TIFs that have a high degree of residential use.”

“It was a tough political battle to ultimately get the sharing, but I think in that instance, both sides had to be willing to compromise, and that’s something that these days in politics seems to be in short supply as people stake out their positions. But as someone who was involved in that discussion leading to the sharing, there was a willingness on both sides to sit down and discuss it and find a middle ground, and I think that’s a key to this and other decisions is that you can’t sit in an ivory tower someplace and say this is what’s best; you’ve got to work with the local people and try to develop some kind of consensus, even if that means you don’t get everything that you would like to get.”


Infinite Earth Radio Episode 52: Affordable Housing and Employment Patterns in the San Francisco Bay Area (Re-release), with Dr. Chris Benner

Infinite Earth Radio Episode 65: #Carbon Series: Conservative Republicans Propose a Carbon Tax, with Catrina Rorke

Development Strategies

George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology at Webster University