Cindi Scoppe’s Sept. 20 column about Costco was on target: Giving tax breaks to large retailers is not about economic development. Like John Dillinger, large retailers go where the money is, and tax breaks mean nothing overall.
“What Costco means to Richland County”
Likewise, there’s no reason to grant 50 percent tax breaks to student dorms that are going to be placed where the students are, as Columbia City Council has done. It is to their advantage to be convenient for students; the tax break just helps them kill their Bluff Road competition.
Take this one more step, to entertainment. Football, film, fine arts, festivals and fly fishing are just some of many entertainment options begging for our free time and disposable income. When the city gives a tax break or incentive package to one, the others are put at a disadvantage.
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That is happening as the city gives a $70 million advantage to a very minor league baseball team. Entertainment is a business, and instead of spending that money on arts groups, the city is paying for baseball that will generate less interest and attendance than our existing entertainment options.
Editorial: There’s a better use for restaurant tax in Columbia, Richland County
Additionally, the city transfers roughly a quarter of hospitality-tax money to the general fund; another quarter pays off loans. Why? I was there when the tax was approved, and the politicians swore it was to be used for the arts. Then they started eliminating funding for groups that had lobbied hard for the tax.
While council can choose to defund arts groups, we are harnessed with the stadium. The council must pay for it it even if the baseball team goes bankrupt, or lose the ballpark to lenders.
Council should quit robbing from the hospitality tax and give to the arts what was promised.
Baseball is great, but arts will bring more tourists to Columbia, draw more city residents and return more cash to the city in ticket sales, jobs and restaurant, hotel, retail and other tourist spending. Which should get the greater funding?