When the government chooses to support particular organizations, charities or causes, it makes taxpayers lend their support to those organizations, charities or causes whether they want to or not. That's why the Nampa city officials who recently voted to end their support of the Nampa Chamber of Commerce were right to do so.
Nampa's urban renewal district had a special deal with the chamber, wherein the chamber got to rent government-owned property at no cost. In exchange, according to the lease agreement provided to the Idaho Freedom Foundation, the chamber would give the city's urban renewal agency certain privileges including special placement on the chamber's website, tickets to chamber events and special recognition by the chamber.
Nampa's newspaper, the Idaho Press-Tribune, argued that the free rent deal was proper because, according to an editorial in the paper, "the chamber works hand in hand with city government on economic development, and that partnership is crucial in helping the city bring in more businesses—which will ultimately lead to more revenue and the opportunity to lower the tax burden on homeowners and businesses already established. They also help promote tourism by giving visitors information about our community, and tourism brings in money, too."
But I'd remind the paper that the chamber is also a political advocacy organization, too. In 2014, the chamber advocated for causes I like (lowering the corporate income tax) and causes I don't (allowing cities to impose higher sales taxes). Regardless, the city made its citizens and businesses be chamber members via a giveaway at taxpayer expense.
The issue of government-selected support for organizations is a problem we highlighted in our reports on government waste a couple of years ago. Government shouldn't compel people to join the chamber of commerce, support the opera, the scouts or domestic violence shelters. Taxpayers should decide their own gifts and their own membership in non-governmental organizations.
Unfortunately, government "charity" is commonplace. Thankfully, at least with Nampa's decision, it's a little less so.
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