With the help of editorial writers and sports reporters, St.
Paul Mayor Norm Coleman has been downplaying the cost of a new
Twins stadium and shifting the debate to whether the stadium
should be in St. Paul or Minneapolis, and even over the specific
site for construction.
One recent newspaper editorial dismissed the cost of a new
stadium as a "relatively small chunk of change." But
despite attempts to minimize the price, it is costly. In
St. Paul, the city's tax burden would increase by $3,777 for an
average family of four! (St. Paul taxpayers are responsible for
$8.5 million per year. Based on current population, that breaks
down to an annual tax increase of $31.50 for every man, woman,
and child living in St. Paul. That is $126 per family of four, or
$3,777 over thirty years.) And this amount represents only
the St. Paul portion of the funding package. The $8.5 million
that Coleman wants from state taxpayers is in addition
to the local tax.
Remember last year, when candidate Norm Coleman stood on the
steps of the State Capitol and signed a "No New Taxes"
Even if the entire bill was paid up-front to eliminate
interest payments, the increase in tax burden for St. Paul
residents averages over $1,600 per family of four. This is no small
chunk of change.
And, the price for these subsidies only goes up. Don't forget,
the Vikings are demanding a new stadium too. The Timberwolves
were back at the capitol less than four years after their last
subsidy asking for more help. Taxpayers are already paying a
subsidy for the Wild hockey team before they have played their
first game. And, if this new baseball stadium is built, you can
bet the Twins' owners will be back asking for a retractable roof.
One of the tricks used to counter objections to subsidizing
wealthy owners is to promote stadium financing as a "joint
venture" in which owners join the public in making a
"contribution". But team owners seldom put any of their
own money in. In this deal, the Twins owner(s)'
"contribution" is less than the additional profits that
they will make from the stadium.
To illustrate what a scam this is, I propose we turn the
current arrangement backwards:
Have the Twins pay for 2/3 of the stadium, and the public will
"donate" the money from naming rights for the stadium!
The public contribution would be paid with a portion of the
revenue received from naming rights, concessions, and leases of
the suites. If you wonder what right we would have to
name their stadium, you get the point.
Spreading payments over 30 years (longer than the life
expectancy of modern stadiums) and then calculating the cost each
citizen has to pay as just "pennies per week" is clever
PR. But regardless of the cost, ordinary working people shouldn't
be bullied into subsidizing the private investments of Carl
Pohlad, Red McCombs, or any other wealthy team owner.