The city of Jackson is struggling with budget woes and considering laying off as many as 35 police and firefighters. Yet, it runs a miniature golf course that turns a tidy profit every year – bringing in a $314,500 surplus from 2005-06 through 2008-09.

But should the city of Jackson be in an enterprise that competes against other privately run entertainment?

“I think the government should not run miniature golf courses,” wrote Bill Chrysan, owner of Putterz Golf & Games in Ypsilanti, in an e-mail. “They don't pay property taxes.  All of the maintenance is paid for with tax dollars.  Most zoning laws and requirements are not enforceable on government entities. In short it's not right.  We have enough competition without having to compete with governments.”

Although the city of Jackson made money on miniature golf, it has not been as lucky making money at other recreation opportunities. According to the city's budget, Jackson lost about $132,000 in 2008-09 by operating its two pools. The city also lost another $7,500 on its golf center.

James Hohman, policy analyst for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said government should stay out of running businesses.

“Same reason that chimps shouldn’t drive. Just because some can do it doesn’t mean that it should be encouraged,” Hohman wrote in an e-mail. “There’s also competitive reasons not to do so: Lack of property taxes, favoritism on liquor licenses, enforcement issues, availability of taxpayer bailouts tilt the playing field against legitimate business.”

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See also:

Jackson Considers Cutting Cops While City-Owned Pools Swim in Red Ink

Local Government Bankruptcies May Become Reality

The Art of the Ann Arbor City Budget

Senate Bill Pending in House Could Cause Local Government Costs to Climb

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