What if I told you a major resort chain was about to build a 1,500 room luxury hotel, water park and convention center, right here in Colorado on 85 acres of prime Aurora real estate?
And what if I told you all of this was going to be paid for with a special tax increase authorized by just a single voter appointed by the corporation?
You’d likely, and rightfully, be outraged. Yet, this very scenario is playing out right before our very eyes.
Whether we like it or not, construction is set to begin on the $800 million dollar Gaylord Rockies Hotel – a massive luxury hotel project – financed almost in half by us the taxpayers.
The massive resort will be bankrolled by a special 2.9% sales tax on hotel rooms. The tax will work just like every other sales tax except revenue from this sales tax won’t be forwarded on to the state and won’t be used to help fund schools, roads, and other important projects that benefit the hard-working taxpayers of this state.
Instead, this special tax will send every penny directly back to the hotel owner, a sum that analysts say will easily exceed $81.4 million dollars.
But that’s not all.
The Gaylord Resort will also receive an additional $300 million in taxpayer-funded subsidies after the city of Aurora allowed the resort to vote itself into a special tax district, in an election where only one person (who happened to work for the corporation) was eligible to vote.
This special-interest, pay-for-play tax scheme was engineered exclusively for the purpose of handing tax dollars over to the developer and helping cushion his bottom line.
It’s scandalous and frankly, voters should be up-in-arms.
The scheme reeks of political cronyism. At best, the proposal is a gross corporate welfare and, at worst, amounts to the intentional exploitation of hard-working Colorado taxpayers.
It goes beyond comprehension to say that a single, out-of-state real estate developer can come in, vote themselves into a special new tax district and finagle the law so that they can pass a new tax that does nothing to help the state, but instead funnels every penny right into their own back pocket.
We cannot allow this precedent to stand—doing so would quickly transform the Centennial State into the Corruption State as pay-for-play politics and corporate handouts become the norm everywhere from Aurora to Pueblo.
If such a grand resort can’t succeed without taxpayer help, Gaylord should abandon the project all together, or scale it back to the point at which it can flourish on its own. Colorado taxpayers cannot, and should not, be on the hook for supporting businesses that can’t support themselves. Which companies fail and which companies succeed is a decision best left up to consumers and the free market – not to bureaucrats, not to politicians, and certainly not to sham elections in which only one voter, who happens to work for the very corporation in question, is the only participant.
Coloradans everywhere should take note, because this plan has far reaching implications.
If allowed to stand, every time some project is too expensive and too unprofitable for the investing-class, corporations will now come crying to city councils and local governments all across the state just so they can vote themselves into public financing for their ridiculous and unprofitable ideas. It’s unfair and Colorado’s taxpayers should reject it.
Of course, supporters will say, “But look at all the economic benefits the new resort will bring us!” Without the $300 million dollar subsidy, the logic goes, the Gaylord wouldn’t have been built in Aurora and, without this major project, Aurora would lose jobs and all the tourism revenue that comes with it.
But if the business can’t sustain itself, is it really worth sustaining?
Colorado families deserve jobs they can count on. That is, jobs that are sustained by the market and free enterprise, jobs that will last longer than any tax subsidy ever could. They deserve jobs created by a system where everyone plays by the same rules, not jobs that are propped up artificially with big-government corporate handouts.
The Gaylord Rockies Hotel has a lot of litigation before it, but the Adams County Judge was right to reject it and should this proposal come to another vote, we hope the citizens of Aurora will too.
Dustin Zvonek is the Colorado State Director of Americans for Prosperity.
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