Jennifer Baysinger: Sales tax hike not justified

08/01/2014 12:00 AM

07/31/2014 5:06 PM

A diverse group of business owners, community leaders and other concerned citizens have come together to form the Coalition for a Better Wichita. After months of discussion concerning the direction of our city, coalition members are not convinced the Wichita City Council has provided sufficient evidence justifying a new sales tax.

We believe Wichita is a wonderful place to live, work and play. Many of our members are entrepreneurs and business owners who have chosen Wichita as the city in which to invest their resources and provide jobs. But the city’s plan to make it more expensive for families to live here and for businesses to succeed in Wichita is unacceptable.

Of particular concern is the economic development portion of the tax – the so-called jobs fund. Taking more money from working families and small businesses and giving it to government to create jobs isn’t credible. We can simply look at the ineffectiveness of our current incentives to see the city’s economic development plans don’t work. The city is asking for more money, but what’s the magic number?

The distribution of the economic development fund will be determined not by our elected City Council but by an appointed board including business leaders who would be eligible for “jobs fund” money, as 80 percent is earmarked for local businesses already in Wichita. This plan lacks transparency – a main concern of citizens I speak to who know that backroom deals with favored companies are not the way to grow Wichita’s economy.

Members of the coalition agree our community needs a long-term water solution. However, the city has failed to deliver a clear plan for taxpayers to digest. The options our City Council plans to consider at its Tuesday meeting are premature and have the appearance of being knee-jerk reactions rather than long-term solutions.

Wichitans are full of ideas and innovation but say their messages fall on deaf ears at City Hall. The message from city officials seems to be: “We haven’t done the best job managing these issues, but give us more money so we can do more of the same, only better.”

I’m excited to continue gathering input from the coalition and provide alternative solutions to the city’s challenges.

Increasing the cost of nearly everything Wichita families buy in order to fund subsidies for select businesses is not a solution. We must ask ourselves: When is enough enough? We simply cannot afford to make a $400 million mistake.

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