Article from For Liberty by Norm Leahy.

Local governments have long had a habit of giving taxpayer money and other favors to specific businesses if those businesses promise to provide jobs and revenue in return.

The Goldwater Institute explores an instance of local government largesse gone wrong in Pima County. Arizona. There, the board of supervisors decided it was a great investment to give taxpayer money to…well, let’s let them explain it:

The county would spend $15 million to build a brand-new, tailor-made facility for a private business called World View, which would take rich tourists on rides to the stratosphere in specially modified weather balloons. This was supposed to somehow spur the economy and create jobs. County officials were so enthusiastic that they broke state and county procurement laws to secretly hire an architect and a contractor for the project, rushing to get the job done because World View threatened to leave the county if they didn’t. And despite the fact that Arizona law forbids counties from giving taxpayer money to private companies, Pima officials raced to complete a fancy headquarters building and a specially-designed balloon launchpad for World View’s exclusive use, all on the taxpayer’s dime.

The rest of the story: the company launched only one balloon. It exploded before leaving the ground.

The balloon company is reportedly looking to move to Florida, failing to create the 400 jobs it promised. And the balloons? The company “used the material that it was supposed to be making balloons out of to make 9,600 “’solation gowns’ for healthcare workers, instead.”

That means for $15 million in taxpayer money, residents got no rides, but did get protective gear that cost  “more than $1,500 per gown—more than the price of an Armani suit.”

Image Credit: Coolcaesar at the English language Wikipedia / CC BY-SA (