The predictable cycle

Published 7:00 am Friday, June 3, 2016

The discussion about Lake Troy is back on the front burner. According to a 2010 news article, we have spent about $360,000 trying to get through the permit process.
I’m sure that figure has increased. It’s reported the lake’s construction could cost between $30 and $50 million dollars. The current discussion now proposes to pay Pat Harrison Waterway District $262,000 annually to convince The Army Corps of Engineers to issue the elusive permit.
Those pushing the lake project shout the same sales pitch over and over. The economic impact would be incredible. It would increase income for local businesses, help reduce taxes and, my all time favorite, much needed revenue for the county. According to the politicians, revenue for the county is the reason every government endeavor is always a fantastic success, no matter how much it costs the taxpayers.
Without one iota of data or a cost profit analysis detailing the true cost and the hypothetical profits derived from usage fees, we are being rushed into a $50 million dollar project. One, which I doubt will be self- supporting.
There is a difference between profit and revenue. Any business can generate revenue, but to continue in business they must show a profit. Governments can operate indefinitely on revenue only. Any additional funds to keep the con game operating are taken from the taxpayers. The lake will generate revenue but will it produce a profit? If the usage fees fail to pay for the lake’s operation, maintenance, salaries, and other expenses, the taxpayers will assume the responsibility.
Revenue is simply attractive data governments use to sell a “pig in a poke.” Economic development and revenue for the county, these innocent sounding terms have been used many times to mask the true identity of government projects, which, in this case, is simply taxpayer subsidized recreation.
The often asked but still unanswered question remains. Why isn’t there a stampede of private businessmen rushing to build this money making venture?
Perhaps the costs to build and operate versus the return on investment make it too risky for a smart businessman.
Governments use the wrong approach when speaking about increased revenue.
Their belief is any increase in revenue must be used to grow government and provide more services.
The correct approach is to use increased revenues to pay down debt and reduce government and taxes.
What is wrong with being the first county to be debt free and living within the means that the taxpayers can afford? It’s time for the fantasy of creating utopia to yield to the reality of affordability.
In the name of acquiring additional revenue, rather than reducing the county spending and debt, it’s likely any additional revenue will be spent on make-work projects.
New projects are always promoted under the banner of economic development and my favorite, “quality of life improvements,” which also improves the quality of the bank accounts of the political class.
Afterwards, the cry for new sources of revenue begins. A new snake oil peddler will appear hawking the latest scheme to produce more revenue for the county and the predictable cycle is repeated.

By Jeff Smith

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