Clint Bolick

When Mesa gives incentives, hold on to your wallets

Posted on March 07, 2009 | Type: Op-Ed | Author: Clint Bolick
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In Richard Tracy Sr.'s argument supporting Proposition 300, which authorizes Mesas deal with developers to build a resort and convention center at the GM Desert Proving Ground, he charges that the Goldwater Institute is threatening long established governing policies that allowed civilization to advance (Prop. 300 incentives will pay for themselves, Opinion 2, Feb. 25). In Tracy's view, such obstacles to civilization include challenging sweeping property rights restrictions around Luke Air Force Base; taking on Phoenix's $97.4 million subsidy for the luxury CityNorth shopping mall; and Arizona voters resounding approval of Proposition 207, the Private Property Rights Protection Act.

Tracy's argument is not with the Goldwater Institute but with the framers of the Arizona Constitution, who rightfully were so concerned about sweetheart deals between government and private interests that they included multiple restraints on governments power to bestow corporate welfare. Primary among them is the gift clause, which prohibits taxpayer subsidies to private interests.

Tracy wants none of that. Government schemes to promote economic development not through sensible tax and regulatory policies but by tax giveaways to special interests, such as tax rebate(s), lease concession(s), or even free land all benefit the community.

Mesas own history disproves the assertion. This is the city that tried to take Randy Baileys brake shop through eminent domain to give it, along with a subsidy, to a private developer. This is the city that 10 years ago bulldozed an entire neighborhood to make way for a private resort that was never built.

Wouldn't we all love to have a tax rebate, lease concession or free land? Instead, in this dismal economy, small businesses and ordinary taxpayers are asked to shoulder the burden to subsidize big corporations and fanciful government schemes.

Fortunately, the Arizona Constitution shields us from the overzealousness of our elected officials and the voracious appetites of corporate lobbyists. If a proposed deal presents a genuine quid pro quo reimbursing a developer for providing public infrastructure, for instance it is entirely permissible. But a gift of taxpayer dollars to benefit a private developer looking to make a profit is not.

Our constitution guarantees a level playing field. It is not on corporate welfare but on our nations commitment to equal opportunity that our civilization has been built and that its endurance in these difficult times depends.

Clint Bolick is director of the Goldwater Institute Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation.

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