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    Repiglican Roast

    A spirited discussion of public policy and current issues

    Name:
    Location: The mouth of being

    I'm furious about my squandered nation.

    Monday, October 29, 2007

    Katrina aid goes toward luxury condos

    [...]
    he GO Zone contains a variety of tax breaks designed to stimulate construction in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama. It offers tax-free bonds to developers to finance big commercial projects like shopping centers or hotels. It also allows real estate investors who buy condos or other properties in the GO Zone to take accelerated depreciation on their purchases when they file their taxes.

    The GO Zone was drawn to include the Tuscaloosa area even though it is about 200 miles from the coast and got only heavy rain and scattered wind damage from Katrina.

    The condo deals are perfectly legal, and the tax breaks do not take money away from Katrina victims closer to the coast because the depreciation is wide open, with no limits per state.

    But the tax breaks are galling to some community leaders, especially when red tape and disorganization have stymied the rebuilding in some of the devastated coastal areas.

    "The GO Zone extends so damn far, but the people who need it the most can't take advantage of it," said John Harral, a lawyer in hard-hit Gulfport, Miss.

    "It is a joke," said Tuscaloosa developer Stan Pate, who has nevertheless used GO Zone tax breaks on projects that include a new hotel and a restaurant. "It was supposed to be about getting people ... to put housing in New Orleans, Louisiana, or Biloxi, Mississippi. It was not about condos in Tuscaloosa."

    Locals say Tuscaloosa was included in the GO Zone through the efforts of Republican Sen. Richard Shelby, who is from Tuscaloosa, graduated from Alabama and sits on the powerful Appropriations Committee. But Shelby aides said Tuscaloosa made the cut because it was classified as a disaster area by the government after Katrina, not because of the senator's influence.

    [...]

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