Voters in Wichita, Kansas, went to the polls, Tuesday, to smash a measure that would have forked over $2.25 million in tax rebates to a downtown hotel project. Those supporting the giveaway spent $300,000 to promote the deal, while opponents ponied up a scant $30,000 against it. The vote nevertheless strongly weighed against the big money, 62 to 38 percent.
The Wichita City Council had enacted this “economic development” deal with the hotel developers, and that would have been the end of it . . . but for some pesky Wichita taxpayers.
Kansans may lack a statewide initiative and referendum, but there is a local process, so citizens possessed a tool for effective resistance. They formed Tax Fairness for All Wichitans and, working with the Kansas chapter of Americans for Prosperity, they hit the streets to gather over 2,700 signatures to require Tuesday’s vote.
After the victory, Bob Weeks, the group’s chair, reminded fellow activists that the battle is far from over:
The Ambassador Hotel is receiving assistance from eight taxpayer-funded government programs with costs of $15.4 million up-front and several hundred thousand annually. None of these were affected by the election. Wichita city hall and its allies are ready, willing, and able to use these incentive programs in the future for other hotels and businesses.
Weeks summed up the election results this way: “The best way to create jobs is to get government out of the way. . . . That is what the voters said tonight.”
On behalf of the new Liberty Initiative Fund, I’m honored to have given two cents worth of advice to their effort. They changed public policy, saved tax dollars and threw a big monkey wrench into the machinery of crony capitalism.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.