Brad Messer Commentary
8:15 a.m. Monday, Feb. 10, 2003

Toyota has challenged “business as usual” at City Hall.

Instead of asking for huge tax breaks which it certainly would have been granted, Toyota volunteered to pay— not only what would come due in time, but more than $60-million it would never owe! Sixty-plus million, *voluntarily pledged to schools and the city. Toyota could have won a hospital district tax abatement: Toyota said no, we’ll pay, thank you.

Compare that with what city council is scheduled to vote on later this week. A big and respected local **company will spend less than $12-million to expand warehouse facilities. The company is asking for tax abatements in excess of $600-thousand.

Before Toyota, that would have looked like a pretty fair “business as usual” handout of your tax money. Now, in comparison, it looks embarrassingly unnecessary.

Curious about who on city council has received donations from the local company that’s asking for the tax break? Go to the San Antonio city website and check campaign contribution reports. You’ll be stymied, because the city’s website does its utmost to make campaign donation research impractical. More about that another time.

How will council vote on the tax abatement for the local company, after Toyota has set the admirable “no-giveaway” example? Council will vote yes for the giveaway, I’m sure. After all, who really cares? It’s only your money.

Brad Messer— commentary, KTSA.

Council agenda for Feb. 13, 2003 here see item 5

* San Antonio Express-News, Carlos Guerra column 2/9/2003 “...Toyota ... requested an accelerated annexation to the city that would contribute $28.9 million in taxes, and the automaker volunteered to pay $34 million in taxes to the Southwest School District." It also refused a hospital district tax abatement and others...”

** The “big and respected local company” is HEB. The reason I did not name them in the on-air commentary is that normally, this abatement would not be controversial, and it isn’t as though the grocery company is trying to do anything under the table. My opinion is much less about HEB and much more about council tax abatement policies, regardless of for whom.

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