What's troubling about the handling of Ark Encounter LLC's application for state tax incentives is not the fact that the package was granted preliminary approval Monday, even though the state has yet to commission its own feasibility study of the proposed creation-based theme park in Northern Kentucky.
Granting preliminary approval before the state confirms the feasibility of a project is standard procedure in the handling of proposed incentive packages. It may not the wisest of procedures, but it is what it is.
What's troubling is the fact that Gov. Steve Beshear made a big to-do of announcing this project Dec. 1 without bothering to check, or have someone on his staff check, the Ark Encounter's own feasibility study.
He touted the project as generating 900 full- and part-time jobs and generating 1.6 million visitors annually based solely on information provided by the company.
That, too, apparently is standard practice in this administration, even though experience should have given Beshear reason to be a bit more skeptical about bringing out the bells and whistles for job-creation announcements.
In the summer of 2008, Beshear and a few lawmakers made a big deal out of announcing a proposal to build ZAP electric vehicles in Kentucky — a plan that was supposed to create 4,000 jobs. The governor even went for a spin around the state Capitol in a ZAP car as part of the ballyhoo.
Backers of that project also won approval of a tax incentive package. But even though they held a ceremonial groundbreaking in Simpson County later in 2008, the ZAP project collapsed shortly thereafter.
Kentucky taxpayers lost no money on the ZAP deal. Incentive packages are designed so projects must meet specific goals before qualifying for the tax breaks. The same rules will apply for Ark Encounter. If it fails to materialize, there will be no cost to Kentucky.
But you would think a governor who whooped it up over ZAP only to see it turn into a fiasco would now be more mindful of vetting job-creation proposals before making a big deal out of them.
The fact that Beshear is still out there making grandiose announcements about such projects based solely on the word of their backers at least raises a question or two about his wisdom.