The state of Kentucky will give Ark Encounter $1.825 million as part of a tourism-related tax rebate based on attendance and sales in its first year.
The money comes from the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority, which said in 2014 that the Ark was eligible for the program allowing tourist attractions to retain 25% of the sales tax collected for things like tickets, souvenirs, and food over the first decade of business. In Ark Encounter’s case, based on estimated sales and other factors, that made them eligible for up to $18.25 million over that time.
Answers in Genesis had to fight to get any of it. That’s because the rebate was designed for for-profit businesses that play by the rules. Ark Encounter, however, was a Christian ministry that required employees to agree to their Statement of Faith (which says the universe is only a few thousand years old and gay people can’t get married). A lawsuit was filed over it, but U.S. District Judge Greg Van Tatenhove ruled in 2016 that Ark Encounter couldn’t be excluded from the rebate program over their religious beliefs. As long as they were bringing tourists to the state, the judge said, they ought to be eligible for the money.
To put that another way, a Kentucky judge — who was appointed by President George W. Bush and once served as a legislative assistant for Senator Mitch McConnell — found a way to make a Christian ministry eligible for tax incentives funded by taxpayers.
Because Republican Governor Matt Bevin was now in charge, as opposed to the previous governor, Democrat Steve Beshear, the state didn’t appeal the ruling.
The rebate was then suspended this past summer. That’s because Ken Ham, in an effort to avoid paying a local safety fee worth $0.50-per-ticket, “sold” the for-profit Ark Encounter to a non-profit ministry he also runs.
That broke the rules of the tax rebate, which only applied to for
-profit attractions. So Kentucky officials said the deal was off
Ken Ham had screwed himself out of $18.25 million over the next decade because he didn’t want to pay a local safety fee worth about $700,000 a year. #CreationistMath.
But then he sold the Ark back to his for-profit business, and the tax rebate was reinstated.
After all that, the Lexington Herald-Leader reports today that Kentucky has finally sent the first check to Ken Ham’s baby.
Ark Encounter… will get a $1.8 million tax rebate from Kentucky this year as part of its 10-year tourism tax incentive agreement with the state.
… Ark Encounter, which opened in early July 2016, generated more than $2.28 million in sales taxes in its first year, according to the Kentucky Department of Revenue.
That total doesn’t include the several weeks from this summer when Ark Encounter was technically a non-profit, but that’s irrelevant. Ark Encounter was never going to get more than $1.825 million a year (over ten years), and they hit that mark this time around.
We don’t know what this means in terms of first-year attendance since the sales taxes apply to more than just tickets. It’s not just a question of doing the math. But I’ve said before that I don’t think there’s going to be a huge bump in the future. This isn’t the sort of museum that requires multiple visits or changes its attractions. It’s a one trick pony.
But Ham’s boat would have to sink quite a bit to avoid getting the same amount of money from the state in future years.
(Thanks to Dan for the link)