With all the fanfare about the four-county industrial park landing a new industry, no one thought our negotiators would be dealing without a full deck. The good news turned bad last week after the Atlanta Journal Constitution revealed from their findings due to a response from their open records request that the $100 million giveaway to lure the industry here has now turned into a $200 million giveaway.
Shocking to say the least because we are now sitting here waiting for what will happen not only next week but in the future. No deal is a good deal unless it benefits both parties. That certainly is not what we have here. Walton and Newton counties seem, at this point, to be responsible for putting up $60 million each in money that we don't have.
After reviewing the more recent records it becomes blatantly obvious they also reveal many misconceptions in costs of items listed. Some of the cost suppositions cannot be met even within this budget. Would anyone be surprised at this point if the amount exceeds $300 million? Would we have been better off just giving $300 million to all the needy, jobless people in the area?
"Long term interests" is a phrase we've heard often during the last two weeks, but history will show we have been lured down this path before. When we agree to give tax breaks based upon future employment levels, there should also be recourse for those not meeting their expectations. For example, "We will defer certain tax for an industry based upon their promises, but, in the event these promises are not fulfilled, the violator is then responsible for paying those taxes." I say again, when you look at the "deal" we sent boys to do a man's job whether it was at the state level, the county level or the multi-county Industrial Authority level.
Costs for infrastructure and other improvements should be set as well. For example, "We will pay up to X dollars for specific improvements. In the event the industry wishes a different plan from that first agreed to, fine, they can pay the difference."
It has been stated the multi-county authority is suffering from ego stress after having no successes for over 10 years and millions of local tax dollars to pay interest on their loans without having paid anything on the initial principal amounts. So they gave away the farm just so they could save face. However, they have saved nothing. This negotiation is a cruel joke on the taxpayers. A known $200 million and a mysterious and dubious future for even more money to make it work.
I don't see the deal materializing. Our local "brain trust" has made promises we cannot fulfill. I will just start with water and sewerage. It ain't gonna happen. We even have the self-proclaimed water guru on staff as our county attorney as well as the attorney for the multi-county Industrial Authority and as I've tried to express many times, "You cannot manufacture water in a court brief!"
Nothing would please me more than to see new opportunities for our citizens, but we have created a monster that will drain us financially if we even have a chance to keep this one from unraveling. It even stresses the structure of the multi-county Industrial Authority. It may well unravel. How even will Jasper County and Morgan County come up with their portions of the expense? Are we not all operating on a crisis budget already with revenues and collections way off the mark and expenses continuing to rise just to provide basic services?
Once again, the wisdom of one of my billionaire friends comes to mind, "Sam, sometimes the best deals you will ever make are the deals you don't make." In addition, he further advised status quo. "If you can come out of this in about the same position you were at going in, you will be light years ahead of the game. There will be a lot of 'lucrative' deals out there, but you will be better served just to sit on your money and let them go on by."
-- Samuel M. Hay III