NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Politicians Refuse To Give Up On Stadiums

February 16, 1999

Pennsylvania voters are dead set against giving taxpayer money to sports team owners to build stadiums. But that apparently hasn't slowed down state politicians, who have approved a plan to subsidize new professional sports facilities.

  • In 1997, taxpayers rejected by three-to-one a tax increase to pay for new ballparks for Pennsylvania's pro baseball and football teams.
  • But in 1998, Gov. Tom Ridge (R) advanced a plan to give the franchises $300 million or so outright -- prompting outraged taxpayers to swamp newspaper editors with letters.
  • Last month, Democrats failed in an attempt to tack the governor's bill onto unrelated legislation.
  • So Gov. Ridge, in an attempt to line up Republicans behind his efforts, proposed a $650 million expenditure -- with the extra money earmarked for pet projects of rural GOP legislators.

Despite phone calls running 100-to-1 against the stadium projects, the state legislature has just approved a plan to get the sports teams $330 million -- by calling it a loan.

Analysts report that a slew of think-tank studies have concluded that stadiums actually reduce per-capita income in their locations. Whatever economic good may accrue, it is canceled out by the drag and cost of taxes levied to subsidize them.

Source: Editorial, "End Run," Wall Street Journal, February 16, 1999.


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