No Subsidies for Football Billionaires

FedEx Field in Landover, Md. If Marylanders want to subsidize the Skins for the benefit of Virginia ticket holders, fine, let them.

Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, reportedly worth $2.3 billion, has said that he wants to build a new football stadium for his team by 2027. Del. Michael J. Webert, R-Marshall, says he would love for the NFL team to move from Maryland to Virginia… as long as taxpayers aren’t asked to share the cost.

Webert, whose district includes parts of three counties west of Washington, D.C., has introduced a bill that would prohibit the state, cities and counties from subsidizing the construction or operation of any stadium or other facilities used by a professional sports team, reports the Virginian-Pilot. The bill is not meant to ban public support for the facilities of minor league teams. Adds the Pilot:

The bill would also prohibit public funding for infrastructure improvements for a new pro sports stadium. Even if cities and counties don’t directly subsidize the cost of a sports stadium, they often provide millions of dollars to upgrade water and sewer lines and roads around sports facilities.

Government can continue to do so, but only if it collects “reasonable fees” from the pro team, according to the bill.

While Governor Terry McAuliffe has said the Redskins belong in the Old Dominion — 66% of season ticket holders hail from Virginia — Gov.-elect Ralph Northam has told the Pilot that he opposes taxpayer subsidies for Redskins, noting that the touted economic benefits from pro stadiums rarely materialize.

Bacon’s bottom line: If super-liberal D.C. or Maryland politicians can live with the hypocrisy of subsidizing a billionaire to keep the stadium in their jurisdiction, then let them. Virginia ticket holders might have to drive a bit farther than if the stadium were located in Northern Virginia, but that hasn’t stopped them from attending the existing stadium at FedEx field in Landover, Md. Virginia has far more pressing budgetary priorities.

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24 responses to “No Subsidies for Football Billionaires

  1. Nothing new under the sun – I remember writing snarky political press releases about the Alexandria proposal that Governor Wilder was toying with, and that would have been 1993….I agree, usually a very bad investment for taxpayers, especially for single-purpose facilities not used year round for multiple activities. (But I’m fine with setting up a special taxing district so the revenue generated by a facility and its activities can be funneled into the bonds – and many municipal coliseums or convention centers are used enough to justify subsidies.)

  2. Well one has to wonder if Conservatives were in charge… what would urban areas look like without stadiums, transit, bike/ped trails, and other stuff.


  3. Gregg Easterbrook’s recent book “The Sport of Kings” estimates that 87% of the cost of NFL stadiums comes from public funds. NFL Commissioner Goodell earns a salary of $30 million from what IRS considers a tax-exempt philanthropy (the NFL). Too many teams use the threat of moving to another city, to extort public money from their host cities to build newer stadiums. In 30 U.S. States, the highest-paid state-government employee is a University sports coach of some kind….they actually earn more than the Governor. The coaches’ recruiting trips using private jets, are considered educational expenses by IRS. I will give Virginia Tech credit for having the highest graduation rate (77%) of any U.S. college football team.

  4. The owner of a professional sports team may be an admirable, or a loathsome, person, and he may be wealthy or not, but that has nothing to do with the fact that if a jurisdiction wants to have that team in residence, it must win the bidding war with competing jurisdictions to land the team. Why would any team owner relocate but to the jurisdiction that offers the best deal? Professional sports ownership is not a sentimental endeavor; not a charity; there’s not an ounce of real loyalty to the fans in the team’s front office.

    No, the real question is, why would Virginia want the ‘Skins enough to pay the price? You can trot out all the usual reasons but providing a clear net boost to the local economy is rarely one of them. There’s the long term result (benefit?) of concentrating all that infrastructure investment and periodic traffic jams in a region; and there’s name recognition beyond the urban area for what may have previously been an obscure suburb — and maybe, just maybe, the stadium has another use, out of season — but in the short term, nobody wins but the local fans, and the politician who gains a few votes from pleasing them.

    Since politicians can please many of those fans simply by promising the impossible, it’s no surprise that many rush to say they are in favor of a team’s relocation to their jurisdiction. What’s dangerous is when those politicians manage to put together a bid package of infrastructure improvements and tax benefits that actually has a chance of winning the bid.

  5. Someone needs to ask Senator Pinhead two questions:

    1. His very fiscally conservative General Assembly has awarded $12.5b per year in company-specific and industry-specific tax breaks that never end and are never evaluated for effectiveness. Maybe Senator Dumbass ought to put a few of his obviously limited mental cycles toward that matter. Those tax breaks take $23,782 per minute out of the Virginia treasury – every minute of the year.

    2. Who does Sen. Asshat think he is telling localities what they can and can’t fund?

    This is just more hot air from The Thundering Herd of Corruption in Richmond. They’re very busy trying to prevent tax breaks that might or might not happen while they crawl around on their hands and knees kissing the asses of the crony capitalist millionaires and billionaires who benefit from the $12.5b in tax breaks per year (forever) the clowns in the General Assembly have already handed out.

    Go back to Marshall and STFU, Sen Webert you empty suited buffoon.

    2019 will be a good year for one more GA seat to go Democratic!

  6. “His very fiscally conservative General Assembly has awarded $12.5b per year in company-specific and industry-specific tax breaks that never end and are never evaluated for effectiveness.”

    Back that up. I hereby challenge you to back that up, because I believe you have no support for that claim. Not that amount – surely there are some big ones, but not $12.5 billion per annum. Show me.

  7. Groceries are taxed at 2.5% but legal advice is taxed at 0%? Really? That makes sense to you? Meals in restaurants can be taxed up to 11% (including such pedestrian items as a salad bar) but a plastic surgeon doesn’t charge sales tax for a nose job. Really? That makes sense to you? Virginia taxes cigarettes at the second lowest rate of any state in the Unites States. Really? That makes sense to you?

    How much money would be generated by applying the sales tax to professional services?

    I hear it on this blog all the time …

    “We don’t have enough money for roads” “We don’t have enough money to pay the public school teachers more” Bullshit. We have too much crony capitalism and corruption to be able to afford proper roads and properly paid teachers.

  8. Needless to say, the Thundering Herd of Corruption in Richmond keeps the details of the business development tax breaks hidden from public view …

  9. And don’t even get me started on the state legislature’s insistence that all cars be sold through dealers (vs purchased directly from the manufacturer over the internet if the customer so wishes) or that all wine must be sold through a wine distributor (vs being bought by the store or restaurant directly from the winery if the store or restaurant so chooses).

    The amount of money being pick-pocketed from your wallet and transferred to the crony capitalist friends of the General Assembly would be staggering if the transparency were in place to see it.

    But we don’t have any money for roads or Medicaid expansion or better pay for teachers.

    What a scam.

  10. Here’s a shocker … The Thundering Herd of Corruption in Richmond makes us one of only 5 states that tax 20 or fewer types of services!

    “Four states broadly tax most services: South Dakota, Hawaii, West Virginia and New Mexico. And five states tax fewer than 20 services. These are Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nevada and Virginia.”

  11. Your claim was $12.5 billion in industry-specific or company-specific tax breaks. That claim is bogus. You did not back it up. The JLARC report cited included for example $3 billion in individual tax provisions (deductions, exemptions, the progression of rates.) And now it turns out that the vast majority of the $9 billion remainder is the basic policy decision – which goes back to the original 1966 sales and use tax bill – to exempt services. The sales and use tax, by definition, is imposed on tangible personal property. If you go to a car repair shop, the services are exempt, but the parts are taxed.

    You say: “Of course it includes the exemption of sales tax for the services industry. Why the hell should companies that provide a service not charge sales tax while companies that sell products charge sales tax?” One answer of course is that services are taxed another way, with the BPOL tax on gross receipts – they are not tax free. Professional firms pay large BPOL taxes and retailers pay minimal BPOL taxes.

    In the case of manufacturing, another big sales tax exemption, every state has a sales tax exemption for manufacturing inputs because the sales tax is imposed on the final price at the end of the supply chain. Without that exemption we would have a value added tax collected at every step in the value stream.

    Another sales tax exemption applies to government purchases. The government should pay sales tax to another government, or to itself? Really?

    You make it sound like somehow $12.5 billion that should go to government is actually being diverted to the greedy businesses and that is just absolute unmitigated hogwash. You are going to keep saying it, but its BS. There are indefensible industry-specific or company-specific preferences, but you didn’t name or quantify them. Decision to me.

    • “The sales and use tax, by definition, is imposed on tangible personal property.”

      In 5 states, not the other 45. You concept of what constitutes a definition needs work.

    • “One answer of course is that services are taxed another way, with the BPOL tax on gross receipts – they are not tax free. Professional firms pay large BPOL taxes and retailers pay minimal BPOL taxes.”

      The BPOL tax was originally instituted to pay for the War of 1812. Your contention that it was a conscious counter-balance to the sales tax is wrong. When the War of 1812 was paid for the BPOL tax should have been discontinued. When the sales tax was implemented it should have included all sales.

      BPOL is assessed by localities. All cities and 48 of 95 counties collect BPOL. Yet all areas in Virginia collect sales tax. So your contention that BPOL is a counter-balance to sales tax is just wrong. Half the counties don’t assess it.

    • “The JLARC report cited included for example $3 billion in individual tax provisions (deductions, exemptions, the progression of rates.)”

      So what? You don’t think the Federal provision for individuals deducting the interest on mortgages favors the mortgage lending industry? You don’t think the low Federal tax rate charged to individuals for carried interest benefits hedge fund managers and the hedge fund industry?

      You’re the professional lobbyist, I am sure you know thousands of ways for politicians to scam, scheme and hide the tax breaks they give as gifts to their benefactors.

    • “You make it sound like somehow $12.5 billion that should go to government is actually being diverted to the greedy businesses and that is just absolute unmitigated hogwash.”

      The $12.5b was JLARCs number.

      Your comments are typical of a Richmond apologist who lives and profits from the Richmond swamp. There is a huge pile of money diverted from the state treasury every year. NOBODY knows what’s in that pile and nobody is checking as to whether those tax breaks are doing anybody any good (except, of course, the beneficiaries of the tax breaks).

      Your answer? Oh, right – you have no answer. Just keep adding sky high tolls, underpaying teachers and raising taxes on those Virginians not getting the lard of the crime syndicate known as the General Assembly.

      A few years ago Sen Chap Petersen proposed a simple bill. All tax breaks would expire after 5 years. They could be continued by a vote of the General Assembly. This would be done on a break by break basis. Needless to say, the largely Republican slime covered swamp dwellers in Richmond killed the bill.

      Even you admit, “There are indefensible industry-specific or company-specific preferences … ” So, Mr Lobbyist, do you support Sen Petersen’s bill to sunset all the tax breaks and require a vote of the General Assembly to extend them (on a case by case basis)?

      “Decision to me.” – you sound like Donald Trump for God’s sake. Shouldn’t you be using your Twitter account?

      • Oh, now that’s a low blow. I am not a Twit. But I will happily compare the fairness of the state tax code to the federal system, which just got even more “simplified.” Let the readers decide. I’ve made my points and your original statement was blatantly incorrect, and your efforts to “clarify” just further make my points. Absent an absolutely flat tax on income and absolutely uniform tax on goods and services, you will be whining about somebody getting a break. (And yes, I even wrote a successful sales tax exemption last year and it included a sunset provision – that’s good policy.)

  12. Services need to be taxed in the economy – as the economy shifts more and more to services and away from products – in my view.

    Get rid of the BPOL – it’s is a prime example of how businesses are arbitrarily treated on tax policy. A broad, across the board tax on services is more fair and equitable – and more important – it’s how we fund the Big 3 – education, health care and transportation.

    Most folks still think we fund transportation with fuel taxes. We still do but we also fund them from the sales tax now – and the sales tax actually generates more than the Va fuel tax many months. See page 3

    I predict if the cap on State and Local sales tax in itemized Federal taxes “sticks” that you’re going to see a shift from property taxes to more sales taxes anyhow.

    Most advanced economy nations primarily fund from general sales taxes with higher rates on luxury items and lower rates on necessities.

    The current subsidies on home ownership both on the local tax side as well as mortgages – actually distorts the market and disincentivizes affordable housing (because it’s not as lucrative to develop) – and actually incentivizes exurban solo commuting.. which in turn amps up congestion and eats highway capacity.

    The mortgage and property tax subsidies were actually at the heart of the great recession as that is how folks could buy and “flip” houses…for profit. Without those subsidies, flipping properties would not be near as lucrative. Essentially the govt, taxpayers are subsidizing and fueling speculation… and inevitable bubble collapses.

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