April 8, 2004
Man, its a good thing you've got me. This article might have slipped under your radar, but Tim Pawlenty has written a wonderful article in the Pioneer Press which defends his stadium plan. I love this time of year! Almost everyday there is stadium news to mull over. And since I am a sick person, I need my daily stadium fix. Anyway, on to the article.
The article begins with a colorful anecdote that I'm sure we've all heard before, the story of Wally Pipp and Lou Gehrig. Pawlenty uses it to illustrate how he doesn't want Minnesota to be another Wally Pipp and take ourselves out of the game. He argues professional sports, as troubled as they are, are part of the fabric of our quality of life. But his big argument is that we can build stadiums "without having an impact on our ability to fund other state priorities." This is where I think people in this state have the most difficulty. Many in Minnesota find it impossible to separate building stadiums from funding healthcare or education. My argument has always been that healthcare and education won't see a dime more if we don't build stadiums. If we don't build stadiums the money that would have gone to them will not be automatically diverted to any other area. These are separate problems and should be treated and solved separately.
Of all the plans that have come forward in the many years of what Phil Krinke calls the "Stadium Bataan Death March" Pawlenty's should make any stadium opponent the happiest. It doesn't create or use any state taxes. Here is how Pawlenty describes his plan:
"The plan is really pretty simple. The teams are required to pay one-third of the cost. Host communities interested in a stadium are allowed to choose new financing tools, such as the ability to go to their citizens for a referendum on local revenues. The state uses a new kind of tax increment financing to capture the tax revenue generated in and around the new stadium to pay for it. This revenue wouldn't exist if it weren't for the new stadium. The teams are required to guarantee the new revenue."
It's beginning to look more and more like the 1/3 contribution from the teams is non-negotiable. And that is fine with me. There is no reason they can't pay at least a third. The TIF plan is the same plan that was used to build 3 new stadiums in Pennsylvania. It works and it is painless. The state still gets the tax money it gets now as if the teams were in the Metrodome and anything extra goes to the stadium fund. If the teams left the state we wouldn't get jack squat. So, what do we want? The same tax money that we have now, or nothing? Pawlenty goes on to add:
"Conservative critics may argue that it's not right for government to help build facilities for private businesses. They're right too — in an ideal world. Unfortunately, few stadiums are built without some kind of government facilitation. The economics of professional sports, and the willingness of other communities to pay for new facilities, makes it a competitive necessity."
This is what kills me. For the past decade Pawlenty has been one of these "conservative critics." Don't get me wrong, I'm thrilled the governor is leading on this issue (finally!), but we could have had all of this figured out a long time ago and for a lot cheaper if Pawlenty and his Republican cronies in the House could have come to this conclusion sooner. If we want to remain "major league" we have got to come up with a workable plan. Other cities and states can figure it out, why can't we? Pawlenty goes on to say:
"That's why the Legislature should act this year to address our state's stadium needs. The Twins and Vikings won't play in the Metrodome much longer. The issue is not going away. The teams might. It's time for leaders to make decisions and move ahead."
I like that, a strong statement that is to the point. It is time for leaders to make a decision on all of this. Our inactivity has cost us hundreds of millions and the longer we wait the harder it will be to do. Some of you may say, "Good! Let the teams leave." This is naive and ignorant of the future. If the teams leave how long do you think it will take until we start begging for another team to return? It happened with NHL hockey in Minnesota, and it will happen with baseball and football too. And it will cost us dearly. I've got an idea. Let's keep the teams we have. It will be cheaper, and it will help us maintain our quality of life now. Kudos to Tim Pawlenty for showing some leadership on this issue. Now if we could only get him to show the U of M a little love...
Posted by snackeru at April 8, 2004 12:38 PM | Stadiums
I find it interesting that all of a sudden Pawlenty is indicating that host communities are allowed to go the their citizens for a referendum on local revenues. Doesn't his stadium bill not require a referendum for any host community's proposed tax increases? I know in general the chances for a ballpark getting built are better if we can bypass the referendum process, but being the St. Paul guy I am, it favors St. Paul if a referendum is required (I have posted on this theory in the past). It tells me that the St. Paul delegation is making some headway.
And who would have thought that the Victory Sports issue could be tied in with the ballpark issue? Did you see the Pioneer Press article concerning Randy Kelly urging Victory Sports and Comcast (St. Paul's cable provider) to settle things so St. Paulites can watch the Twins? Don't you think the Twins would look very favorably on St. Paul if Kelly could broker a deal between Comcast and Victory? Again this just goes to show that St. Paul is covering all the angles.
Jim in St. Paul
Posted by: Jim in St. Paul at April 8, 2004 4:51 PM
I think Pawlenty knows that there is no way this bill gets out of the House without a referendum attached. In fact, I don't think it will get out of the Taxes committee without a referendum. So, to see Pawlenty write about it is not a big shock to me. Maybe it is part of an agreement he has with Abrams?
I did not see the Kelly article on Victory, thanks for mentioning it. And yes, I do think the Twins would be giddy if Kelly was able to broker a deal. However, if you get to watch the Twins and not me I will be ticked off! Hopefully once on of the cable companies capitulates the rest will follow quickly.
Posted by: Shane at April 9, 2004 8:55 AM