State Official Correctly Explains Tourism Incentive

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The secular media, some Christian media, and secular bloggers have spread much misinformation about the Kentucky Tourism incentive that the Answers in Genesis Ark project applied for. A number of people commenting on my Facebook page and other sites showed their utter ignorance at understanding the true nature of this incentive program.

As you know, AiG did not receive final approval for this incentive—and AiG is consulting with expert attorneys as we seriously consider asking the court to decide this matter. Keep watch for further information regarding this case, which we believe is a very blatant example of viewpoint discrimination.

However, Bob Stewart, secretary of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, wrote an op-ed for the Lexington Herald-Leader newspaper to correct the misinformation about this incentive that as he says was the “first of its kind in the nation and has now been copied by a number of other states seeking similar success to what Kentucky has enjoyed.” While he accurately explains the tourism program, he insinuates that the Ark Encounter application went through the prescribed application process where it “failed to win approval for the sales tax rebates.” The fact of the matter is that he personally decided to not allow the application to go before the approving board for a hearing on its economic merits.

In this article, Bob Stewart lists some of the facilities that have enjoyed the benefits of the incentive program such as the following:

the Newport Aquarium, the Kentucky Speedway, Newport on the Levee, Louisville’s 4th Street Live, the recently re-opened Kentucky Kingdom, the highly acclaimed 21C Hotel in Louisville as well as the 21C under construction currently in a historic building in downtown Lexington[,] . . . visitors’ centers that have opened in many of Kentucky’s famed and intensely popular bourbon distilleries, as well as a number of new hotels adjacent to convention centers in Owensboro, Paducah and Somerset.
He then explains how this incentive program greatly boosts the economy of Kentucky and has nothing to do with a facility being built with tax dollars as so many reporters and bloggers have falsely claimed.

Bob Stewart states the following:

And to be clear, the Tourism Development Act is a performance-based incentive.

The qualifying tourism project, once approved, only receives a portion of the sales taxes it generates once it’s built and open for business. These are new taxes being generated by the retail sales produced by the project.

The more sales generated, the more the project receives in rebates, up to 25 percent of the initial project investment over a 10-year period. . . .

It’s a sound incentive, aimed at attracting larger tourism businesses that will create jobs, generate state and local tax revenue, enhance the quality of life for residents and attract the visitors who will come as a result of the tourism project. . . .

The tourism industry in Kentucky is a major contributor to the state’s overall economic vitality, generating a $12.5 billion overall impact in 2013. This spending generated over $1.14 billion in revenues to the state and $168.7 million in tax revenues to local governments.

The incentive is performance-based and thus there is no financial risk to the state. You see, the Ark must have high attendance or the rebate of sales tax does not kick in. Furthermore, this incentive is not coming to the Ark out of the state treasury and away from state programs—in fact, having the Ark in the state is a huge net gain to the state’s treasury.

The Ark project will bring hundreds of millions of dollars into Kentucky and has met all the criteria for approval as a tourism project under the Tourism Act (according to the state’s own consultant). So the question to answer then is this: Why was the Ark Encounter denied this incentive? Moreover, Secretary Stewart refused to even submit the Ark Encounter’s application to the authority for final approval. Why? Stay tuned for further developments as all will become very clear in the near future.

I encourage you to read the entire article by the secretary of the Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet.

To keep up to date with the Ark project, visit

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