NLR moving on State Fair tax | Arkansas Blog

Thursday, June 9, 2011

NLR moving on State Fair tax

Posted By on Thu, Jun 9, 2011 at 4:57 PM

Fox 16's David Goins reports polling is underway by the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce on voter feelings about a temporary sales tax to raise $70 million to lure the Arkansas State Fair to move its grounds from Little Rock to a spot in or near North Little Rock.

This compares with the $3 million proposed in the recent Little Rock sales tax priority list for fairground improvements at the current site on Roosevelt Road.

This is a pretty good example of the mutually destructive nature of the corporate welfare game. One city is going to outbid another city to steal one of it businesses. Taxpayers will pay the freight. And for what? There might be some greater activity at the State Fair from a newer and bigger site, but you can look at fairs all over the country and not find much in the way of year-round net growth potential.

The current location leaves a lot to be desired in size, freeway access and neighborhood. But in a new site, the fair will still be primarily a carny midway and farm animals, same as before. New exhibit and performance halls might be useful for entertainment rental at other times, but see Verizon Arena, another break-even proposition. Inevitably, a new venue will drain some business from other existing sites. The best estimate from a consultant hired by the fair, which badly wants to move, was pretty modest income potential. That gives you some idea. But when North Little Rock wants something, the mayor is willing to move mountains to get it and taxpayers have tended to go along, even as they pay a huge hidden tax through electric rates, no longer the bargain they once were.

Forgot to mention: the NLR Chamber enjoys a constitutionally dubious and large subsidy courtesy of city taxpayers, about $250,000 a year last time I checked.

It's the old public-private partnership. Public pays the freight. Private interests get the profits.

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