This seems not just like a bad deal, but really inexcusable from a public policy perspective…
Virginia lawmakers might think they’ve been wrestling with this question: Should the state give up about $1 billion in tax revenue to build the Washington Commanders a new National Football League stadium?
But they’ve really been deciding this: Should Virginia forfeit possibly unlimited tax dollars to finance not just a stadium but team offices, unrelated office space, retail stores, restaurants, lodging and anything else that the team, stadium authority and local government are up for?
…language in both the House and Senate bills says the bonds would finance a “facility,” yet the legislation defines that term so broadly that it could encompass the entire development.
Wait a minute, is this some sort of joke or something? Let’s check it out for ourselves. So here’s the House of Delegates version of the bill (Chief Patron: Del. Barry Knight) and here’s the State Senate version (Chief Patron: Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw). A few key phrases jump out from the text of these bills (bolding added for emphasis):
- “The Authority is exempt from the Personnel Act and the Public Procurement Act. The Authority may issue bonds with a maximum maturity date of 40 years.”
- “‘Campus’ means the facility and parcels proximate to the facility on which development is to occur and the owners of which have petitioned to the county or city within which the facility is located to include their parcels in the campus.
- “‘Facility’ means (i) a professional football stadium, (ii) practice fields or other areas where professional football teams may practice or perform, (iii) offices for the primary team, (iv) offices, restaurants, concessions, retail and lodging facilities which are owned and operated in connection with a professional football stadium, and (v) any other directly related properties, including onsite and offsite parking lots, garages, and other properties, all located on a site specified by the primary team and consented to by the Authority and the county or city in which the site is located.”
- “‘Personal income tax revenues’ means personal income tax revenues as estimated by the Tax Commissioner from individuals under Article 2 (§ 58.1-320 et seq.) of Chapter 3 of Title 58.1 based on salaries, wages, and other income generated through employment or the conduct of a trade or business within the facility and any performing arts venue, including without limitation, such taxes collected from a primary team’s or any other professional football team’s players, coaches, and office personnel; personnel employed by an affiliate or other operator of enterprises within the facility and any performing arts venue; and personnel involved in the development and construction of the facility and any performing arts venue.”
- “‘Sales tax revenues’ means tax collections under the Virginia Retail Sales and Use Tax Act (§ 58.1-600 et seq.), as limited herein, generated by transactions taking place in the facility and on the campus, including transactions generating revenues in connection with the development and construction of the facility and of the campus”
Does all this seem pretty broad and generous to billionaire Dan Snyder’s football team? Yeah, well, it seems that way to other people as well. Per the WaPo story on this:
“I don’t think it should be called the ‘stadium authority,’” said Michael D. Farren, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. “I think they should call it the ‘Snyder City authority.’”
Neither bill caps the amount of money that can be raised. And while the House bill limits the bonds to 20 years, the Senate version would allow the stadium authority to issue new bonds in perpetuity — and collect the tax revenue to pay them down — to finance new construction, expansion, repairs and maintenance.
“It’s an endless gravy train of subsidies,” said Farren, whose research focuses on the effects of government favoritism toward individual businesses and industries. “As long as we keep some bonds active, we can keep the gravy train rolling. I don’t think that in reality you would ever see everything paid off.”
Does any of this sound ok to you? If so…why exactly (and what, by the way, are you smoking)?!? Haha. Seriously, though, is there any reason for Virginia to give billionaire Dan Snyder ANY subsidies at all to relocate his profitable – even if not successful on the football field – business here? And even if that’s the case, is there any reason to be THIS generous to him, including “restaurants and retail without specifying that they be located in the stadium, potentially applying to an Armani store near the venue as much as a Commanders merchandise shop inside?” Uhhh…