Cedar Park is picking favorites, and it’s harming their residents.

For over a decade, the city has been practicing “corporate welfare,” where they essentially take residents’ money and give it to a select group of businesses in the area.

The most recent example occurred this past month, when the city announced they’d made a deal to bring the popular Alamo Drafthouse theater to town. As a part of the agreement, the city promised to provide up to $1.5 million worth of incentives to the developer. Alamo joins a long list of Cedar Park’s specially treated businesses, such as Costco, who got $6 million from the city in perks.

Corporate handouts are unjust and harmful to the community, and here’s how: imagine owning a small farmer’s market and having to pay a costly array of fees to the city. Now picture the city taking the money you just gave them, going down the street to a different farmer’s market, and giving them that cash. Oh, and the other business doesn’t have to pay the same fees or taxes you did.

How’s that for equality?

Cedar Park’s website lays out some of the available perks for these favored businesses, including tax rebates, reimbursements for various construction fees, waived property taxes, and a “fast track approval through the development process.”

Sounds pretty nice—but only if you get chosen by the city. Otherwise you’re the one paying for other businesses to receive those exclusive benefits.

Defendants of this practice often claim these perks are necessary to attract businesses like Alamo Drafthouse and Costco and that businesses wouldn’t come without them.

That is blatantly false.

Ask Toyota and Mazda, who recently turned down an extra $700 million in perks from North Carolina and built in Alabama instead.

Special perks are hardly a strategic reason why companies pick a certain location, especially when the handouts are worth fractions of a percent of that business. In Cedar Park’s case, the $6 million they offered Costco in 2012 was worth 0.006 percent of the company’s $97 billion in net sales that year. To put that in perspective, if you were given multiple salary offers of $50,000, would a $3 signing bonus be a deciding factor in which job you chose?

Cedar Park can decide to start a new trend and end this unjust practice. Instead of picking winners and losers, why not give all businesses benefits? The city can. It’s called lower taxes and fewer regulations. That would spark growth and prosperity across the entire city, for everyone to enjoy.

The city’s latest deal came just before the swearing in of three new council members, who ran as conservatives. Hopefully they will now fight to end this crooked favoritism, and create a prosperous environment for all Cedar Park businesses.

Jacob Asmussen

Jacob Asmussen is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard. He attended the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and in 2017 earned a double major in public relations and piano performance.