This opinion column was submitted by RGJ columnist Sam Kumar, former leader of the Washoe County Republican Party.
The Oakland A’s are currently in tense negotiations with the City of Oakland over the construction of a new stadium and are considering a move to Las Vegas. Dissatisfied with Oakland City Council’s refusal to pass the team’s proposed stadium funding on to taxpayers, officials at A have made several trips to Vegas to look at potential stadium locations. While both the team and Oakland City Council agree that a new $ 1 billion stadium must be built, there has been significant disagreement over who should pay for it, leading the A to move to Las Consider Vegas.
“The past is only a prelude to the future,” wrote Cicero in 55 BC. Five years ago, in 2016, the Oakland Raiders failed to reach an agreement with the City of Oakland and Alameda County. The city and the district have decided not to finance the stadium with taxpayers’ money. Instead, Oakland and Alameda tried to form a public-private partnership in which infrastructure improvements would be publicly funded, but the stadium construction would come from private sources. Not satisfied with the offer, the raiders went in search of greener pastures.
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Enter Nevada eager to do what the City of Oakland and County Alameda refused to do: collect taxes and use tax dollars to build a stadium in Las Vegas for the Raiders. At that time, a shortfall of $ 400 million was projected for the next fiscal cycle. Despite the potential deficit, Nevada passed a bill to fund the stadium for $ 750 million.
Of course, the process of approving the $ 750 million taxpayer grant was not an easy one. Special legislation was convened in October 2016 to approve the stadium and the associated tax increase. For that session, the Washoe County Commission appointed two Republicans (an MP and a Senator) just in time to vote on the tax hike. These two appointees, Jesse Haw for the Senate and Dominic Brunetti for the Congregation, never ran for public office, and have not since stood. Their sole purpose was to attend the special session, cast the votes necessary to collect taxes and finance the stadium. To date, this is the only vote they have cast in their political career. Ethical rules that require a voluntary disclosure of potential conflicts of interest were dispensed with during the special session by voting without the opportunity to publicly comment.
One final point: In principle, a non-essential business should not be subsidized by taxpayers’ money. A business that cannot thrive without tax subsidies is likely to have major underlying problems, such as lack of demand for the product. Government subsidies merely mask the broader issue of business.
Although I believe that large sports teams are a profitable business when run properly, many of these sports teams tend to gamble on the population’s affinity for sports and pit one city against another in a bidding war. While Nevada should attract companies with a low-tax, business-friendly environment that organically creates high-paying jobs, business-friendly in no way means taxpayer-funded subsidies. Corporate welfare benefits politicians, lobbyists and interest groups and is at the expense of taxpayers. Nevada shouldn’t fall into this trap a second time, raising taxes or subsidizing business. Deceive me for once, shame on you; fool me twice, be ashamed
RGJ columnist Sam Kumar is a former leader of the Washoe County Republican Party.
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