Click for audio Business Subsidies: A Ferry Tale from Lansing

Sports fans would think it was unfair if during the big game, the referee took points off of one team's score and gave them to the other team. Yet that's how government behaves when it takes tax money from some businesses in order to dole out subsidies to other ones.

The latest example of this comes from Muskegon. Governor Engler recently announced a grant of over $600,000 to help the city develop a Lake Michigan ferry service with HydroLink, a Wisconsin-based company.

The problem is that HydroLink will be able to use docks funded by the state grant to unfairly compete with Lake Michigan Carferry, an unsubsidized, Michigan-based company that built and maintains its own docks at its own expense.

HydroLink's owner also wants federal subsidies, hoping to use anticipated profits from his ferry service to defend himself against outstanding lawsuits and pay off $1.2 million in back taxes owed to the IRS.

Citizens should be skeptical when government uses their tax dollars to unfairly benefit some business owners at the expense of others. That's especially true when the subsidized business owners already have a history of poor money management.

Government should stop picking winners and losers and let businesses compete on a level playing field.

For the Mackinac Center, this is Joseph Lehman.