Tax-Free Bonds for Stadiums? NFL vs Congress

Ever since the National Football League let their games get political with the national anthem protests, there has been a tremendous backlash from fans and Republicans.

House Republicans even took action by proposing a bill last week that would halt team owners from being able to use tax-free bonds to help fund the construction of these event arenas.

“Under the legislation unveiled last week, local governments could no longer fund the building or renovation of professional sports stadiums by issuing tax-exempt, public-purpose bonds, the sort of bonds typically used to fund schools, libraries and public transit,” wrote Reuters.

The NFL argues that the tax-breaks are deserved because these massive construction projects create jobs.

“You can look around the country and see the economic development that’s generated from some of these stadiums,” said Joe Lockhart, NFL spokesman to Reuters. “These sorts of infrastructure projects have a long history and the benefits of them are obvious in many of our communities around the country, so we will continue to make our opposition known on that.”

Other major sports leagues like the National Basketball Association and Major League Baseball have yet to release statements in response to the legislation.

Republicans reject the notion that these stadiums stimulate local economies. By allowing these tax-free bonds, it will cost the government, which is funded by tax-payers’ dollars, $300 million over the next decade.

According to a Brookings Institution study, the government has lost up to $3.7 billion in tax revenue from these bonds. 36 of the 45 major-league stadiums were built with at least some funding from these type of tax-free bonds.

“Although stadium construction for multimillion-dollar sports franchises may have some local economic benefit, that is not the responsibility of the federal government,” said Lankford said in a statement to The Washington Times. “The federal debt is now at a ridiculous $20 trillion. Using billions of federal taxpayer dollars for the subsidization of private stadiums, when we have real infrastructure needs in our country, is not a good way to prioritize our limited amount of money.”

The NFL is more invested in protecting federal funding than other leagues for good reason.

“With tax-exempt bonds and other public subsidies, taxpayers have spent an average of $262 million on each NFL stadium built from 1990 to 2010, according to a study by Judith Grant Long, a University of Michigan professor of urban planning. That is about $60 million more than the average MLB stadium received,” writes The Washington Times.

But Democrats have also supported similar legislation in the past. Former President Barack Obama proposed ending this type of tax break for stadiums back in 2015.

The national anthem debacle may have just what was needed to get this bill in place.

Author’s note: NFL’s Roger Goodell really screwed up on this one. Now Republicans are on a mission to halt federal subsidies for new stadiums and this is just the beginning.

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