Friday, May 29, 2009

Please "sin" with your government's blessing!

We awoke this morning to news of a proposal being floated by team officials of the Columbus Blue Jackets, our local National Hockey League team, that, in all honesty, not only asks for you to "sin", but also to possibly put your health at risk, thus seeming to ensure a dwindling fan base, but with the approval of your state and county government.

Say what?

The Jackets have been around for 9 years now, and have begun to hemorrhage money, about 11 million dollars a year, on average. In order to reduce their debt burden, they have asked state legislators to give permission to Franklin County commissioners to impose what is normally referred to as a "sin" tax, an extra amount levied on beer, wine, alcohol, and cigarettes, in order to fund the county's purchase of Nationwide Arena, where the Jackets play, after which the county would then (according to the team) negotiate more favorable lease terms for the team to use the building as their home and offices. Team officials say the current lease terms are too restrictive and are contributing to the outgo of team money.

The team officials do not want you to ask the most pertinent question: If the lease terms were that bad, why did you sign the lease? Did you only agree to this (supposedly) bad deal in order to assuage your massive egos just so you could say, "We have an NHL team here in little old Columbus! We're Major League!"?

Nationwide owns the building, and so did not have to pay for naming rights, thus denying themselves a potential revenue stream. Jackets personnel say they get very little from parking; maybe they should have bought up all the parking lots in the Arena area 9 years ago. The average game night parking cost is $20, far higher than the day-to-day rate for those same spots, but the team is not seeing any of it come their way. And 15 of the luxury boxes were sold in advance to help cover construction costs; perhaps you can charge higher prices for whatever amenities you provide for the luxury suite owners?

The arena has a 99% property-tax abatement, but it does provide at least a million dollars per year to the Columbus Public School system, a cost that would have to be borne by the county should this proposal go through. The dirty little secret about that million dollars: it does not directly cost Nationwide a penny, as it comes from a ticket tax surcharge and a portion of their employees' city income tax.

Originally I thought that the voters would have to approve this madcap scheme, but, from what I heard on the radio today, that may not be an option, as the team officials know that such a proposal is likely to be shot down by the voters, which is why they asked for the county to be given special permission to impose such a tax. If that happened, it almost certainly would face a court challenge and/or a referendum vote.

If you argue that only those who smoke and drink will assume the burden for this tax, consider this: if the revenue stream does not live up to projections, how long would it take for the county to raise other fees and taxes to cover the deficit and keep the money flowing in? What cuts to other services would have to be made in order to keep millionaire athletes playing for dear old Columbus?

If being a team owner/operator wasn't such a great deal, why did you get into the business in the first place? Why should the taxpayers bail you out, especially when you recall that the voters here voted down 56-44% a proposal to have taxpeyers pay for the arena to be built? Voters in Cleveland and Cincinnati voted differently when asked to build sports stadiums, but, as for Columbus, as the old commercial used to say, "That's a whole 'nother smoke".

So, if you are a Blue Jacket fan or a county commissioner, are you ready to ask the people of Franklin County to put their health further at risk with governmentally-approved "sinning", just so Columbus can remain a "Major League" city?


1 comment:

  1. I'd hate to lose the Jackets but a shell game with taxpayer money isn't right any way you cut it. If you want everyone to share the burden put a tax on all carbonated beverages and sports drinks. They're not really a necessity to anyone.