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r raj. 7 ” .7eelpip egligilArtg641. is 71 AN 40ettri 03,177/18:0qm. 374:* ,k ,./71,604.Nfill4 N :thy! ;if east offensive; tax, :but’ we fare kir the rich. And, as Ar i from the presence of a team, each city is providing welfare. Perhaps it’s time to see if other investments \(schools, public league” and produce the same level of tangible benefits that the intangible benefit of teams seems to produce. from Mark S. Rosentraub: Major League Lo$ers: The Real Cost of Sports and Who’s Paying For It FUNGO During the current legislative session, Governor Bush has made tax reform his first priority. In his State of the State speech he declared, “property taxes are too high,” and the tax plan he presented to the Legislature was intended to lower property taxes for homeowners and businesses. Although the Ballpark at Arlington, because it is still owned by the city, is currently tax exempt, Bush’s tax-cutting efforts could be helping his future personal business interests. When the Rangers take possession of the stadium, they will want to pay the lowest possible property taxes. And any tax reduction the governor can get on commercial property will be a direct benefit to him and other owners of the Rangers. While the stadium is directly subsidized by a half-cent local sales tax, taxpayers across the state were also unwitting contributors to the ballpark project. Due to a 1995 ruling by Comptroller John Sharp, the stadium project was allowed to escape state sales tax. That ruling, which Sharp said was based upon legislative intent, exempted $12 million worth of taxes that likely should have been collected on materials used in construction. Yet Section 151.341 of the tax code states that when a non-profit development IT’S OUTTA HERE Taxes lie at the heart of another conflict between Bush’s public positions and his private interests. When asked why some of his ownership in the Rangers went into a blind trust and some didn’t, Bush volunteered that “the reason why we put assets in blind trusts is to avoid conflicts of interest.” But Bush’s ownership of the Rangers certainly presents at least a potential conflict of interest. The city of Dallas wants to build a new stadium for the Mavericks and the Stars. Financing such a stadium will be very difficult without revenues from sales taxes. Dallas has already exhausted its own sales tax potential and is limited by the state sales tax cap, which stands at 8.25 percent. Bush has repeatedly stated his opposition to an increase in the sales tax cap. The city of Arlington, however, still has a half-cent left under the cap; coincidentally, there is plenty of land adjacent to the Ballpark at Arlington available for additional development. Local boosters are suggesting that the city use its additional room under the sales tax cap to finance a stadium for the Mavericks and the Stars. If that stadium is built, it would have a direct benefit to the Rangers, due to increased parking revenue and potential development by hotels, restaurants, and other service-related industries. Mayor Richard Greene, who handled the early negotiating on the Ballpark deal, says putting an arena in Arlington near the Rangers stadium or elsewhere in the city has been in discussion for two and a half years. “Our position has been if Dallas can’t work out a deal for an arena project, we’d like to be considered as an alternative for them.” Democratic Senator Royce West of Dallas says the use of a sales tax is the “desired method” of financing for Dallas. But he says, “If we don’t level the playing field, Dallas could be at a disadvantage in getting the necessary finances of the kind to build a stadium.” The playing field, that is, may not be quite level between Dallas, Arlington, and the governor; but West refused to judge whether or not the governor had a conflict of interest. “You’re not going to get me into a fight with the governor,” he said. A STRONG BULLPENOR JUST BULL? “We must change a welfare system that has created dependency on government,” Bush said on the campaign trail in 1994. “I know full well, like most Texans know, that dependency upon government saps the soul and drains the spirit.” But today, stadiums have become the most visible example of private entities using government money and authority to make them more profitable. In mid-March, Lieutenant Governor Bob Bullock discussed the current stadium funding battles in the Legislature, saying, “Tremendously wealthy people own these franchises and they’re looking for public moneys to build a stadium where their franchise can play in that stadium. It’s just corporate welfare.” When asked by the Observer if the governor was among those who have benefited from corporate welfare, Bullock vacillated. “Well, I’ve teased him about that in a good-natured way,” said Bullock. “I just do not think that frankly, we should use taxpayer dollars to build sports facilities [for] sports franchises.” Asked to respond to Bullock’s comment, Governor Bush says the Rangers are not getting “corporate welfare.” Why not? “Because the Ballpark at Arlington See “Stealing,” page 22 “TREMENDOUSLY WEALTHY PEO-PLE OWN THESE FRANCHISES AND THEY’RE LOOKING FOR PUBLIC MONEYS TO BUILD A STADIUM WHERE THEIR FRANCHISE CAN PLAY IN THAT STADIUM. IT’S JUST CORPORATE WELFARE.” 12 THE TEXAS OBSERVER MAY 9, 1997 rir :VI