I take another break from speaking on A Resolution Regarding Marijuana to return to the subject of appropriating economic development funds from the Lottery and other sources.
The Oregon Constitution, Article 1, section 20, states, “No law shall be passed granting to any citizen or class of citizens privileges, or immunities, which, upon the same terms, shall not equally belong to all citizens.”
This Board of Commissioners has, in the past, granted public money to particular businesses, based on their application and the Commissioners’ approval of their plan. Any business is free to apply for such a grant, but not all applicants may receive it; who gets one is up to the Commissioners.
I believe that this violates at least the spirit of the above provision of our Constitution. In my last speech on this subject, I pointed out college aid grants as being state grants appropriated by the legislature and administered by the executive. Another difference between state college grants and the county’s grants of money to individual businesses is that college aid grants are available to all citizens on the same terms: apply to college; meet the income guidelines; and you get the grant.
This county could do something similar with our economic development funds: spread them out to many applicants on the same terms, without discrimination. To be exact, we should offer to pay a portion, up to perhaps $20,000, of System Development Charges in the City of Grants Pass or County Planning Department fees outside the City, for any new or expanding business that triggers such fees, until the fund runs out. The County might want to form a volunteer board to keep track of such charges, and to join with applicants in appealing excessive fees.
One can see why you do not currently bring economic development grant proposals to your Weekly Business Sessions: other businessmen do not take it well when one particular business is given a leg up while others are left to flounder. You don’t want to hear the flack until the deed is done. Spreading out those funds widely to help pay fees that put the brakes on all development would be a boost to the entire County.
It would also take the Board of Commissioners off the hook for continued appropriation of economic development funds.
You might want to dip into the same funds occasionally for other governmental purposes that can be charged to economic development, but this would not prevent you from doing so. It would simply dispense the bulk of such money without discrimination or further effort on your part.