How do you feel about being an “investor” in Formula One racing? Doesn’t really matter; the state of Texas went ahead and took your money in an attempt to get the London-based organization to authorize a race in Austin. If this sounds like just another excuse for folks to race off with your money, it is. And just in time for an historic budget shortfall, no less!
State Comptroller Susan Combs approved this questionable use of the taxpayers’ money out of the “Major Event Trust Fund” (bet you didn’t know we had one of those, did you?).
A mostly unnoticed budget rider in 2009 put $25 million into the fund, contingent on lawmakers passing Democratic State Sen. Kirk Watson’s SB1515, which added “Formula One” to the kinds of events eligible to receive tax money. Only 16 House members and four senators voted against the legislation.
Allegedly the races will start in 2012, but so far there aren’t any tracks built or courses approved, though the Austin-based organizer says he has secured an undisclosed location. The Austin American Statesman suspects it will be east of the airport.
With the state facing an $11 billion or more budget shortfall, this is the kind of tone-deaf expenditure that drives taxpayers crazy. This simply isn’t the time to send taxpayer money to a multi-national racing organization, or help well-heeled investors avoid spending so much of their own money on a pet project of questionable economic value.
Of course, it’s never a good idea to engage in corporate welfare, of which this is only the latest example. For years the state has used taxpayer dollars to appease the latte-liberals of the Hollywood film industry, among others.
It’s not the role of government to invest in business or subsidize corporate fat-cats. It’s time for the Texas Legislature to end this practice altogether.
Let businesses stand or fall, start or fail, on their own. If the legislature wants to ensure a strong, competitive environment for stable economic growth, then cut spending, keep taxes low, and government out of the way.