The Chatter: Ark Encounter could lose $18M state tax incentives, judge orders state to pay $224K in same-sex marriage legal battle

07/22/2017 10:30 AM

The Ark Encounter may lose its $18 million tax-incentive package from the state after the for-profit company transferred the Noah’s Ark-inspired attraction to a related nonprofit entity, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported Friday.

The Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet informed Ark Encounter attorney James Parsons in a letter Tuesday that the Grant County attraction was suspended from receiving tax incentives after it transferred the $48 million property to Crosswater Canyon, a nonprofit connected to Answers in Genesis, which operates both the ark attraction and the Creation Museum in Petersburg, according to the newspaper.

From the report:

The letter from Tourism’s general counsel B. Leigh Powers said the ark had several violations of the state agreement, including a failure to tell the agency of any change in ownership or get prior written consent to transfer assets. In addition, the agreement stipulated that the tax incentive, approved by the Tourism Development Finance Authority, was made for Ark Encounter. Non-profits can qualify for the tax incentive, but in this case the agreement was with Ark Encounter, not its non-profit affiliate, Crosswater Canyon.

The tourism letter also cites a statement on the Ark Encounter website that says: “The for-profit LLC structure also allows the Ark Encounter to be eligible for various economic development incentives that would not have been available with a non-profit structure.”

The letter asks Ark Encounter to comply with the existing agreement in 30 days, or request an extension in order to qualify again for the rebate. State officials said the sales tax rebate accrued before June 28 would depend on what the Ark does in response to the state’s concerns.

Answers in Genesis co-founder Mark Looy told the Herald-Leader in a statement that his group would comply with the cabinet’s request, but he did not provide details on how.

State on the hook for $224K in same-sex marriage legal fight

A federal judge on Friday ordered the state to pay more than $224,000 in legal fees after Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis rejected attempts by same-sex couples to get marriage licenses through her office, according to the Associated Press.

U.S. District Judge David Bunning awarded attorneys representing a pair of same-sex couples $222,695 who sued Davis in 2015 plus $2,008 in other expenses, the AP reported.

Bunning ruled at the state was liable for the expenses, not Rowan County or Davis personally, writing that she represented the commonwealth in her refusal to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Davis’ attorney, Mat Staver with Liberty Counsel, said he plans to appeal the ruling, saying that the case was dismissed on appeal after state lawmakers passed legislation amending marriage licenses in the 2016 session. A spokesman for Gov. Matt Bevin told the AP that outside counsel is reviewing Bunning’s decision.

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a Video Journalist for Spectrum News and covers Kentucky politics and all the goings-on at the State Capitol. Kevin was born and raised in Frankfort so he grew up around politics and has always had the drive to follow the political process and hold lawmakers accountable. Before joining Spectrum News Kevin covered government and politics for The State Journal in Frankfort. You can watch Kevin’s work weeknights at 7:00 and 11:30 on Pure Politics, available exclusively on Spectrum News, HD Channels 403 and 715. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135.

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