Is Virginia about to give Dan Snyder a blank check? Current legislation is an “endless suite of subsidies”

This not only seems like a bad deal, but truly inexcusable from a public policy perspective…

Virginia lawmakers might think they’ve struggled with this question: Should the state give up about $1 billion in tax revenue to build the Washington Commanders new National Football League stadium?

But they really decided this: Should Virginia give up unlimited taxes to fund not just a stadium, but also team offices, freelance offices, retail stores, restaurants, housing, and anything else the team, l stadium authority and local government are ready?

… the wording of the House and Senate bills indicates that the bonds would fund a “facility”, but the legislation defines this term so broadly that it could encompass the whole of development.

Wait a minute, is this some kind of joke or something? Let’s check for ourselves. So here is the House of Delegates version of the bill (honorary leader: Del. Barry Knight) and here is the state Senate version (honorary leader: Senate Majority Leader Dick Saslaw). A few key phrases stand out from the text of these bills (emphasis added for emphasis):

  • The Authority is exempt from the law on personnel and the law on public procurement. The Authority can issue bonds with a maximum maturity of 40 years.
  • ‘Campus’ means the facility and the parcels near the facility on which the development is to occur and whose owners have requested the county or city in which the facility is located to include their parcels in the campus.
  • “Installation” means (i) a professional football stadium, (ii) training grounds or other areas where professional football teams may train or perform, (iii) offices for the main team, (iv) offices, restaurants, concessions, retail businesses and accommodations that 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 property , all located at a site specified by the core team and approved by the Authority and the county or city in which the site is located.
  • ““Personal income tax revenue” means personal income tax revenue as estimated by the Personal Tax Commissioner under Article 2 (§ 58.1- 320 and following) of chapter 3 of title 58.1 on the basis of wages, salaries and other income generated by employment or the conduct of a trade or business within the installation and any performing arts venue, including but not limited to taxes collected from players, coaches and office staff of a main team or other professional football team; staff employed by an affiliated company or other business operator within the facility and any performance venue; and personnel involved in the development and construction of the facility and any live performance venue.
  • “Sales Tax Revenue” 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 establishment and on campus, including revenue-generating transactions in connection with the development and construction of the facility and campus”

Does all of this sound broad and generous enough to billionaire Dan Snyder’s football team? Yeah, well, that seems to be the case for other people too. According to WaPo’s story on this:

“I don’t think it should be called ‘stadium authority'”, said Michael D. Farren, principal investigator at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center. “I think they should call it ‘the authority of Snyder City’.”

Neither bill limits the amount of money that can be raised. And while the House bill limits bonds to 20 years, the Senate version would allow the stadium authority to issue new bonds in perpetuity — and collecting tax revenues to pay them back — to finance new construction, expansions, repairs and maintenance.

“It’s a series of endless subsidies”, said Farren, whose research focuses on the effects of government patronage on individual businesses and industries. “As long as we keep certain bonds active, we can keep the sauce turning. I don’t think in reality you would ever see everything paid for.

Does all this suit you? If so… why exactly (and what are you smoking by the way)?!? Ha ha. Seriously, though, is there a reason Virginia should give billionaire Dan Snyder ANY grant to relocate his profitable business — even if it doesn’t succeed on the football field — here? And even if so, is there a reason for being THAT generous to him, including “restaurants and businesses without specifying that they are located in the stadium, potentially applying to a Armani store near the venue as much as a Commanders merchandise store inside?” Uh…

About Christopher Easley

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