People who hand out city and county tax incentives say Blue Flu isn’t their fault

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The people responsible for handling the tax incentives for Memphis and Shelby County are saying the Blue Flu and pension problems are not their fault.

Some angry city workers are pointing the finger at the Economic Development Growth Engine, or EDGE, blaming tax breaks for the pension shortfall.

EDGE President and CEO Reid Dulberger told WREG he sympathizes with police, fire and city workers who are struggling with hikes in health care premiums. However, he said a lot of the money EDGE hands out is from federal funds, so city workers should point the finger somewhere else.

Hundreds of police officers are at home, instead of work. Most of them, choosing to stay home in protest of the city’s hike in health care premiums.

Pensions for police, fire and city workers are dangerously underfunded, and Michael Williams with the Memphis Police Association thinks excessive tax breaks to recruit and keep businesses are partly to blame.

“A lot of cities give businesses PILOTs for three to five years,” he said. “We’re issuing 10-, 15-, 20-, 30-year PILOTs. That is crazy!”

Those PILOTs are also known as Payment in Lieu of Taxes.

Dulberger said EDGE is forced to give longer incentive periods to keep big businesses coming in.

“It is an enormously, fiercely competitive market out there,” he said.

It is not just big businesses feeling the heat. Some city workers are protesting small stores and restaurants tied to the Chamber of Commerce. They blame the chamber for pushing business over people.

Thursday, EDGE’s new finance committee approved three loans to small businesses, totaling $75,000.

“We can help a variety of small to medium size firms that are looking to expand their facility, buy new equipment,” Dulberger said.

Williams thinks the money edge is handing out should be going towards resolving the pension problems instead.

“A lot of the businesses may not be bringing anything to the table other than, they provide jobs,” he said.

Dulberger also said he feels people who are protesting businesses attached to the chamber are going about solving these problems the wrong way. He wants to see the community work together to find a solution.


  • Joe

    I don’t know a lot about EDGE, but i do know it is hand outs of tax dollars. It is like all the daycares that poped up when you could get hand outs for child care several years back and probably still today. Why so many hand outs of tax dollars and then, all the goverments are broke? State, county, city. and trillions in debt with the fed.The only thing I can figure is as long as they keep giving money they keep getting votes.

  • Nonsense

    It is your fault…You spend money…not for where it counts…YOU are responsible..Next thing will be its our fault right?

  • james

    “Ooooh it ain’t my fault”, is what every councilman is saying now. Wanna know where the money is? Check their coffers. Memphis will be the new Detroit in a few years or less. Remember you heard it from me first.

  • Joe Bledsoe

    I will no longer leave any money within the city limits of Memphis, if others follow my decision we will put it onto its knees and get the elected officials attention, That’s one of the only ways to do so. Nothing gets attention faster than “NO MONEY” . The burbs would love to see you spending your money within their boundarys. Please do so, anything that is in Memphis is also out in the burbs, please join me.

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