Quit fighting over sales tax

By Walt Braun

Let’s start with this: Bringing new businesses to the Manhattan area and encouraging existing businesses to grow are very important priorities.

We say that for many reasons, but today we say it because the Manhattan City Commission is in a spitting fight with the Riley County Commission — with a little side squabble with the Pottawatomie County Commission — that endangers progress in that area.

The struggle is about the future of a tax. It’s currently a sales tax of one-half of one percent that shoppers pay on things they buy in Riley County. The money goes mostly to support the city’s economic development program, which uses the money to spark business growth.  We view that as a wise investment, but the tax is due to expire and so there’s a question of exactly how to attempt to renew it.

We’re not going to get into the details of the arguments here. On the surface, they’re about what we’d consider legal technicalities and rules. Underneath that, we suspect the issue is really about who gets to control the money.

Here’s what we’d like community leaders to keep in mind: There’s no way voters are going to approve a sales tax extension proposal if the city and the counties are still fighting with each other about it. We believe voters will support it if leaders agree on it and make the compelling case that can clearly be made. Manhattan area voters are not dumb.

So get your act together.

Again, we don’t want to referee the arguments. But we’d start with this: The goal of the whole thing is to generate as many good jobs for area residents as possible. Everything else is just window-dressing.

We recognize that there are lots of political considerations that have to go along with that, but we suspect that if our leaders keep that one priority in mind and resolve to get the job done, they can untangle the mess that they’re currently in.

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