Tax Hike Vote in Kent County Expensive, Unnecessary

Unfair to force taxpayers to subsidize the recreation of others

A Nov. 8 Kent County ballot proposal would impose an annual $9.2 million property tax to subsidize the Grand Rapids Public Museum and the John Ball Zoo. Voters may not realize that the proposal also distributes new tax revenue to other government entities, too.

Kent County’s “animals and artifacts” have already been subsidized by taxpayers and officials want more, even though the museum already has an endowment fund worth nearly $40 million. While the ballot question is being sold as a way to support these cultural institutions, some of the tax hike will go to “local authorities for authorized purposes.”

This is wasteful. Recreation and entertainment facilities should be paid for by those who use them. Forcing people with no interest in zoos, museums, symphonies and sports to subsidize the recreation of those who do is unfair. Maybe zoo and museum proponents don’t share the tastes of motocross, bowling or boxing fans, but that doesn’t justify taking dollars from them to subsidize the tax-hikers’ pet interests and projects.

Moreover, as much as $414,000 from this tax increase will go each year to provide subsidies and indirect benefits to local special interests. The money will be distributed by the Downtown Development Authorities of 10 Kent County municipalities; the Brownfield Redevelopment Authorities of another six; the Monroe North Tax Increment Financing Authority and the Grand Rapids SmartZone Local Development Finance Authority.

If Americans have learned anything from the past eight years, it’s that the political class stinks at picking economic winners and losers. This tax hike will continue that.

Very few of the people who will foot the bill for this tax hike will see any benefit from it. It’s expensive, unfair, and will most likely hurt the region’s economy.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.