One of Wichita's biggest employers has come out against a sales tax increase and in support of the group trying to fight it.
Tuesday the Wichita City Council voted 6-1 in favor of putting the sales tax on the November ballot. Among other things, the sales tax would provide money for incentives to bring companies and jobs into Wichita.
"We don't think government should pick winners and losers," said Jennifer Baysinger, of the Coalition for a Better Wichita. A group that has formed against the 1% sales tax, namely the portion for jobs development. "There's no evidence incentives works, what works is a favorable tax climate and a favorable regulatory climate, that's where businesses grow."
In a statement to Eyewitness News from Koch Industries, Mark Nichols, VP, Marketing and Public Affairs, writes, "Koch Industries is supporting the Coalition for a Better Wichita. We do not support a new tax on citizens to create a jobs fund."
Eyewitness News asked the business whether the support would include financially backing of the group. It replied:
“We understand that Koch Industries is one of more than 100 members of the coalition, and we will be providing financial support.” - Mark Nichols, VP, Marketing and Public Affair.
"We are excited to have their support, but it's important that you remember we are a very broad based coalition so we have the support of many businesses and individuals," said Baysinger. "We were hoping the city council wouldn't put the tax on the ballot, but now we will have to do fundraising so we can really get the message out for folks to vote 'no' in November."
In a USA Today article, published on August 6th, entitled "Charles Koch: How to really turn the economy around", Koch said "Too many businesses focus on getting subsidies and mandates from government rather than creating value for customers."
He suggests instead we need to "encourage principled entrepreneurship", "eliminate the artificial cost of hiring" and "guide many more people into developing skills and values that will enable them to reach their potential."
The Greater Wichita Chamber of Commerce is in favor of the 1% sales tax. The President and CEO, Gary Plummer, wrote in a statement to Eyewitness news "We're disappointed. We understand and respect Mr. Koch’s philosophy. Wichita is down 20,000 jobs. We look forward to having more community conversations about how Wichita survives in this extremely competitive marketplace for jobs."
The 2014 Chairman of the Chamber, Wayne Chambers, spoke with Eyewitness News by phone.
"Koch's position doesn't particularly surprise us," he said. "I think the excitement and what makes it great is that there will be a public debate and we'll see what the voters want. We're down 20 thousand jobs from where we were just a few years ago. There's a great deal of concern for the economic vitality of the community, there's a lot of interest in trying to revitalize the community, get those jobs back."
He said there have been many businesses and individuals who have spoken up in support of the sales tax increase.
The 1% sales tax does more than just create a fund to help job development. Here's how the $400 million proposal breaks down if it is approved by voters.
$250 million will go towards water conservation, $80 million towards the economy and jobs, $40 million for public transit and $30 million for roads.