KGUN 9News


Legal threat aims to deflate space balloon

Posted at 7:01 PM, Apr 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-05 22:01:29-04
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - A space tourism project, based in Tucson was enough to get Pima County government to offer 15 million dollars in incentives to keep the project---and its jobs here.
But now a conservative organization is threatening to sue to stop the incentives and Tuesday---  a majority of County Supervisors voted to fight back.
The project, called Worldview, plans to charge tourists 75 thousand dollars a ticket---  to take a balloon to the edge of space, then glide back to Earth.       
An estimate that the plan would create four hundred well-paying jobs, helped convince Pima County to borrow money to build the program a building and launch pad.  
But a conservative group says those incentives break the law.
Groups like the Chamber of Commerce have already rolled out a welcome for Worldview and its plan to use a balloon to lift tourists to the edge of space.
Pima County cites estimates that over a 20 year span Worldview would bring in $3.5 billion in economic benefits and four hundred jobs paying at least 55 thousand a year.
Supervisors saw that as good reason for the County to borrow money to build a $15 million dollar building for WorldView and have the company pay that back through rent.
But what a majority of County Supervisors call a proper business incentive, a conservative organization called the Goldwater Institute calls an outright gift and something that's against the law.
Supervisor Ally Miller was the one vote against the Worldview package when it was on the agenda in January. She says Pima County should attract business through efforts like fixing the streets.
“The responsibility of County government is not to incentivise businesses.  We are to set the table, reduce regulation, make sure we have a community that is attractive to folks and businesses wanting to come here; that means cutting our tax rate."
County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry says the county's not breaking the gift rule because the deal will make a profit.
"The building that's being actually built as a county building will be leased to Worldview and the aggregate sum of their rent payments exceeds the cost to the County in principal and interest by 4.2 million dollars."
Now we will have to see which argument will float if the dispute does end up in court.