Today the Minnesota House is expected to vote on whether to send taxpayer money to the NFL and its team in the state, the Vikings. While some political observers I respect have said that the vote will be no, I doubt that: Never underestimate the power of the office of the governor (who wants the project), trade unions (ditto), and emotion in politics (“the Vikings are part of our heritage!”) After that vote, comes the Senate, where prospects are not as good–though again, I expect that there will be some way for the sausage to come out the other end.
I’ve written a lot about the issue, and have tangled (on Twitter) with subsidy advocates, some thoughtful, others less so. Below is a note I left on the Facebook account of one member of the Minnesota Legislature. It is something of a summary of what I have to say on the subject.
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The economic impact of sports stadiums and sporting events has been grossly overstated. See, for example, a journal article I wrote about a few years ago:http://www.policyguy.com/
One thing people tend to forget: Sure, you can look to business A, B, or C that benefits from the subsidy. But there are little things known as “opportunity costs.” Spend $200 on gameday? That’s $200 that your local restaurant, hardware store, whatever, won’t have. The same principle applies to taxpayer funds.
Am I also opposed to preferential treatment for Best Buy, Target, etc.? Yes.
Would increased gambling pay for a stadium? Perhaps it would generate sufficient tax money–but don’t forget, that tax money could be used for many other purposes. Arguably, schools, roads, health care, police, etc. are higher priorities than subsidizing a league that has $9 billion a year in revenues.
The most honest approach is to say “Hey, we use tax money to buy stuff that we like. I like sports. I want everyone else to pay for this.” But beware: majority rule (of the population or the legislature) does not guarantee a just or even wise outcome.