Ark incentives: cheap jobs, poor state image

December 3, 2010 

Gov. Steve Beshear

The wall of separation between church and state will unlikely be breached if a private company planning an Ark Encounter theme park in Grant County qualifies for tax incentives under the Kentucky Tourism Development Act.

If a church or a religious organization sought the same incentives for the same purpose, there would be clear reason to object on constitutional grounds.

Ark Encounters is a private company seeking to make a profit off of a biblical theme.

As such, it seems as entitled to apply for incentives from promised profits as any other private, for-profit company in Kentucky.

Yet, there are legitimate reasons to be concerned about the announcement.

Despite some progress in economic development, Kentucky continues to use tax incentives in pursuit of mostly low-paying, part-time seasonal jobs that would further lower the state's average wage and do little to increase the demand of higher education. This is similar to past shortsighted subsidies of chicken processing plants and customer call centers.

We understand that even low-paying jobs are welcome while rebounding from a recession and heading into an election year.

But these incentives could have been awarded without Gov. Steve Beshear's public embrace of an expansion of the Creation Museum — a project rooted in outright opposition to science.

Hostility to science, knowledge and education does little to attract the kind of employers that will provide good-paying jobs with a future.

Anyone who wants to believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible has that right.

However, the way the Beshear administration handled this makes it appear Kentucky either embraces such thinking or is desperate to take advantage of those who do.

Neither is appealing.

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