Conservative Viewpoints

"Government is not the solution…it is the problem" -Ronald Reagan



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Economic development, government’s role, and how it applies to the Wayne

Posted by Stephen on May 18, 2007

Capitalism depends on the ability to maintain minimum intrusion by government. There shouldn’t be a lot of grey area there. Yet, the question of what ‘minimum intrusion’ means, is consistently asked.

Government, we acknowledge, has a role in economic development but the extent of that role should be confined to creating an environment conducive to free market growth created by business owners and entrepreneurs. Minimum intrusion by  government as it applies to the free market should be confined to carrots and sticks.

Carrots come in the form of tax incentives, credits, and relief that allows the business to maintain maximum freedom to invest as much of their revenue into expansion, planning, promotion, and the litany of other demands that accompany their progress as possible. Sticks, typically in the form of taxes and/or fees, are used to reverse or slow expansion when concern of the affects of rapid economic growth out-weighs the benefit which typically comes in the form of inflation.

Unfortunately, some people, like those that support the Wayne Theatre project in Waynesboro, wish to extend government’s role as much as possible no matter how risky the endeavor and no matter what the tax payer, whose investment it is that they are choosing to pilfer, has to say about it.

For other people, the mere fact that citizens have such differing opinions proves that government, in this case, should not be involved in the free market decisions surrounding the investment necessary for the success of the Wayne project. Instead, those that support the Wayne should have the freedom to invest their money as they choose to which, in this case, would be to provide financial assistance to the Wayne. Once again, the freedom of choice maintained by the investor is the key to the success of the free market of which we take great pride, and it can be maintained, great advantage of.

It is troubling to watch government make arbitrary decisions with tax dollars, based on little if any consistent philosophy or belief system. The lack of discipline in these decisions leads to the decision that it is perfectly fine to invest money into a theatre, but not a different private enterprise that will provide real tax dollars because they are not a 501 c3 non-profit as opposed to the hope or anticipation of spin off revenue that may or may not accompany the theatre.

The inconsistency and fundamental failure of a government that would maintain this level of reckless spending is what spurs the flip-flopping that citizens of Waynesboro have been forced to endure for the past year. First, the Wayne was a dead issue that would not come before council. Then, after an election based on that promise, the Wayne was brought back by the majority on city council who decided a million dollars in tax payer revenue should be allocated to the project. Then, two members of the majority removed the million dollar proposal from the discussion claiming they wanted to also “remove the Wayne Theatre from the CIP.” Curiously, the Wayne Theatre is not on the CIP because it cannot be on the list of capital improvements because it is NOT owned by the city.

Then, City Manager Doug Walker ‘found’ more than $400 thousand dollars in tax revenue. Claiming that the found money wasn’t really tax revenue, the majority on council then proposed spending $300 thousand dollars on the Wayne Theatre. Not satisfied with that level of compensation, Mayor Tom Reynolds decided to add, with support from Nancy Dowdy and Lorie Smith, an additional $700 thousand dollars over ten years in a, thankfully, non-binding resolution.

Lost in the inconsistency of the majorities decisions, and manipulated within the conversation by supporters of the Wayne, is what government’s role is. Those that govern by convenience see the Wayne as an acceptable investment into free market affairs because it promotes their agenda. Many of these same people would be first in line to protest a similar investment that they do not deem worthy to them personally. Hence, the needs for principled decision making by those that are elected to make responsible, reasonable and rational decisions.

It is critical that these decisions are based on an understanding that scarcity exists and that tax revenue is a finite resource and a precious commodity to be spent on priorities before luxuries such as theatres. Sadly, the information shared within this conversation is deemed irrelevant by the actions of the majority on council that refuse to engage in any practice that places the needs and desires of tax payers ahead of their own.

Stephen Winslow is the executive editor of Conservative Viewpoints.

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