Reviewing a copy of West Virginia’s 2014 mid-term election ballot printed in the local paper, I noticed that there is a state consitutional amendment proposal waiting for my “Yes” or “No”. While I am in favor of citizens being involved the formation and enactment of government, this amendment smells like a manure pile of favoritism and potential manipulation. But, who could be so heartless to vote against the Boys Scouts?
Essentially, without naming the Nod-Nod-Wink-Wink-Know-What-I-Mean “youth organizations” the amendement would allow the state legislature to exempt from property taxes on property owned by non-profit youth organizations built at a cost of over $100 million. There is only one such property in the state, namely, The Summit Bechtal Family National Scout Reserve. It hosted the 2103 Boy Scouts Jamboree, and is designed for a number of other events year-round and for future national gatherings.
I support the work of the Boy Scouts. I support people with too much money donating it to worthy causes. I do not see either of these being reasons to stiff the state and county on property taxes. As I have stated in other posts about charitable giving, I believe that governments should be neutral regarding how we spread our charity. Creating incentives via tax code, or worse yet constitutional amendments, that favor those with the best lawyers to exploit the legislation, corrupts the motivation.
At issue here is not exempting the non-profit activity of the Boy Scouts. However, after securing the property, under tax exempt status, the organization now want to “rent” it for events… essentially doing business and making a profit. As oganizations are want to do, when they petition for exemptions for taxes (Walmart sound familiar?), the Boy Scouts tout how much money they have/are bringing into the region (construction of the facility, gas, meals, maintenance services) that bolster the local economy. Along with this is the implied threat that if the organization does not get its way, it will not bring in those funds. Don’t we call that extortion when the mob make similar claims?
Thus, to give a legal shine to the deal, and make the voters feel that they have made the decision, we have the option to change our state consitution to benefit one group. How soon until the NRA sets up a training facility, I’m sure they have a spare $100 million to make a great shoot-em-up course to training youth in the art of safe gun handling… maybe something that looks like their high school campus… and asks for tax exempt status to rent this out to police, security guard, national guard, militia groups, and survivalist clubs. But, that slope is slippery… what will the state do with The Islamic State sets up such a facility, also claiming religious non-profit status, to train youth for fight for righteousness.
Me? I think I’ll set up a still and then ask for a consitutional amendment for tax exmept status because of all the revenue I’ll bring to my region selling my moonship (just kidding, NSA guys).
Its enough that sports venues and huge stadiums are tax exempt or paid for by taxpayers. Your point is well taken, when we start exempting one organization, then others will begin their subtle threats asking for the same treatment. These organizations are well funded and don’t need a tax exemption to survive. Let us know how the voting turns out.
The editor to the local paper had the same perspective, including questioning how soon Islamist groups would jump at this exemption. I’ll let you know Tuesady how Wild and Wonderful West Virginia votes!