$3,777 Per Family is 'Small' Price to Pay?
Senator John Marty
August 23, 1999

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" pledge?

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.

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