If I get this right, the developers who want to put in a natural gas pipeline from Richmond to Madison want a tax break from all the towns along the way.

Then they’ll sell the pipeline to the gas company and walk away with a profit. How much profit? 10 percent? 20 percent? Then, of course, the owner of the line will make a profit. Again, how much profit?

My point is simple. For me, profit is not a sacred thing. Before they get a tax subsidy, like the oil companies do now, I want to know how much profit that adds to their bottom line.

If all these taxpayers are being asked to invest in this venture, then they are shareholders, and perhaps they should get a return beyond some vague promise of jobs.

There is no way that the developers are going to show any more than they want, but one thing is clear: They are not in this to do a public service. They are in this to make a profit, and no one but they know what that is and how much their tax exemption will add to it.

Too much profit, as Wall Street should have taught us, easily turns into greed.

Profit is not a dirty word, but it’s not a holy one, either.

Stephen R. Aucoin


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