Target 8 Investigation: TDD Tax, Part One

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Taxation with fair representation -- it's one of the values Americans expect. This is Part One of a three-part Target-8 investigation on TDD's. That's Transportation Development District... also known as -- charging you an extra tax. And you're probably not even aware of it! There are 14 TDD's in Columbia alone, but we begin this story in Jefferson City -- or is it Springfield.

Rep. Charlie Denison is the transportation chair for the Missouri House.

"We have about 20 in Springfield," said Denison. "They're good for Springfield, but we need to take a look at the way we're doing it today. You can get dinged pretty good," -- at a retail development near you.

"I would say the average guy has no guess," Denison said.

That he's getting charged an extra tax. When you shop at a store located in a TDD you pay anywhere from one-eighth to one cent extra sales tax.

"I'm sure there's some abuse still going on," said Sen. Bill Stouffer

Stouffer is the Senate transportation chair.

"It's like any good idea," Stouffer said. "If it's not kept under control it gets out of control."

Two years ago, the legislature passed a law making TDD's more transparent.

"If you shine a light on something it cleans up pretty quickly," Stouffer said.

Stouffer emphasizes the purpose of TDD's is to make the users pay for shopping center infrastructure -- that's how MoDOT is involved.

"We don't want them to build something for the sake of building it," said Mike Dusenberg, MoDOT planner. "It has to be something that's an improvement we desire and benefits the public as well."

In Part Two of this special series we'll look at the performance of Columbia's TDD's, and in Part Three, why this TDD is collecting millions of tax dollars but not spending it.

Stouffer says this sort of reporting is needed.

"The press has gotten lazy," Stouffer said. "T they don't do the investigative work. It costs money. There are a lot of reasons why -- we have excuses. That's the advantage of the free press -- to find areas that have light shown on them and shine the light."

"The carrot is there always," Denison said.

Denison and Stouffer agree the carrot is needed as an incentive for legitimate shopping center dvelopers.

"Look at who it's going to help, but don't forget who it's going to hurt," Denison said.

To give you an idea how much extra you're paying at these TDD's... If the rate is a quarter of a cent, when you spend $400, $1 is going to the developer to improve the infrastructure of that shopping center.

Watch Part Two next -- a new Columbia City Council member says the city should have more control over the purse-strings of those TDD's.