Tuesday, February 28. 2012
I voted today. The forecasted thunderstorms were late arriving, and I figured I could use a short walk. I strolled over to the local polling place, successfully navigated Kurt Kobach's photo ID gauntlet, and apparently cast a vote on the single question on the ballot. The question was whether to rebate 75% of the local hotel taxes over the next fifteen years to a new downtown "boutique" hotel. Publicists claim this helps develop downtown, adding 124 service jobs ongoing plus close to a thousand construction jobs short-term. The primary opposition force was the Koch-funded Americans for Prosperity -- they saw it as a corporate giveaway, which of course it was. The more ideologically thoughtful saw it as unbalancing the free market: as an exclusive break for one business, it gives that business an unfair advantage against every other hotel in town. That, too, is true, as will become apparent when all those other hotels petition the city council for the same break.
I voted no, against the rebate. I'm sick and tired of all such special tax deals. They've become so common -- especially in Red State America, where Republicans see business favors as essential patronage, and Democrats are equally unscrupulous in their efforts to paint themselves as pro-business -- that nobody makes a business investment these days without auctioning it off to state and local governments. The best way to stop this would be strong national laws to put a stop to the practice -- minimally by taxing local tax preferences, possibly by prohibiting them outright (at the very least they go against the notion of equal treatment under the law). But short of that, the least we can do is to vote them down when we get the chance (or shout them down when we don't).
Update: The rain showed up a bit after 8PM, pretty heavy in fact, with a couple tornado warnings north of Wichita, in McPherson and Marion counties. The hotel tax rebate was voted down, with 61% (16,198) no, 38% (10,107) yes. The group that backed the yes vote spent $300,000; the no group spent $30,000. (Report here.)
Second Update: Kris Kobach announced he was pleased with Wichita test of voter ID law. Turnout was about 13.5% of registered voters, a level that Republicans can win with. By the way, that line of thunderstorms dropped a tornado on Harveyville, KS last night. Gov. Brownback declared Harveyville a disaster area, but since Brownback's been governor you could say that about the whole state.
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