It’s official: In Kentucky, the invisible hand of the market belongs to God. Not long ago, in your blessed state capital, Gov. Steve Beshear announced his full support of a $150 million Noah’s Ark-themed water park to be constructed in Grant County. And ye, he saw that it was good:
“We are excited to join with the Ark Encounter group as it seeks to provide this unique, family-friendly tourist attraction to the Commonwealth,” said Gov. Beshear. “Bringing new jobs to Kentucky is my top priority, and with the estimated 900 jobs this project will create, I am happy about the economic impact this project will have on the Northern Kentucky region.”
The Ark Encounter is scheduled to open in spring 2014 in northern Kentucky. Multiple sites are being considered, although property in Grant County off I-75 is at the top of the list. A feasibility study conducted by the renowned America’s Research Group has indicated that the Ark Encounter may attract 1.6 million visitors in the first year and is expected to employ up to 900 full- and part-time staff.
The for-profit Ark Encounter project will be privately funded at an estimated cost of $150 million. The final site selection for the Ark Encounter is subject to the ability to acquire all of the land needed for the project, and the approval of certain state and local incentives and other assistance for the project.
As the Courier-Journal hath reported, the park’s backers — e.g., Answers in Genesis, which is also responsible for Northern Kentucky’s Creation Museum, and the Springfield, Missouri-based Ark Encounters, LLC — are seeking state tourism development funds to subsidize the project’s construction despite having the backing of a major sky-based deity.
The developers are seeking incentives under the Kentucky Tourism Development Act, which allows up to 25 percent of the cost of a project to be recovered.
Under the law, the state each year returns to developers of approved projects the sales tax paid by visitors on admission tickets, food, gift sales and lodging costs. Developers have 10 years to reach the 25 percent threshold.
Advocates for church-state separation question whether the tax incentives would raise First Amendment issues.
Louisville attorney David Tachau, who successfully sued over a state appropriation for a religiously affiliated pharmacy school, said he would have to further research the issue.
“It certainly sounds as if the mechanism for supporting a particular religious dogma would violate the establishment of religious prohibitions in the state and federal constitutions, but there may be slippery ways this could pass muster,” he said.
UPDATE: WFPL reports that Gov. Beshear is completely comfortable with secular tax dollars subsidizing this fundamentalist job-creator:
“We have reviewed this from a legal standpoint and the application complies with our laws. There is nothing even remotely unconstitutional about a for-profit organization coming in and investing a $150 million to create jobs in Kentucky and bring tourism to Kentucky.”
We can’t convince Harley-Davidson to locate in the commonwealth, nor can we land a lithium-ion battery factory, but by Jove, they shall come two-by-two to see this thing:
UPDATE #2: Filthy athiest n’er do well Joe Sonka of Barefoot & Progressive has posted his account of the press conference, including this potentially sacrilegious video wherein Mr. Sonka asks our divinely touched Governor the most burning question of all: