Tuesday, May 10, 2005

$1.1 billion for the Twins?

Our friends John Knight and Linda Koblick, who ran against each other in 2002 for Hennepin County commissioner (Linda won), today find themselves on the same side of the Twins stadium referendum issue.

John Knight asks, "Where are the 'free-market' Republicans when you need them?"

The economics of major league baseball do need to change. Right now, millionaire players and billionaire owners have it both ways -- justifying their high incomes while forcing taxpayers to pay for their facilities. Pohlad says his one-third portion is a "fair-share percentage to pay." That sounds odd to me -- I would never expect taxpayers to underwrite 66 percent of my company's facilities. Where are the "free-market" Republicans when you need them?

Other stadiums have been built with as little as zero public dollars -- zero. It can be done. We deserve better.

I will be contacting my legislators and letting them know that if they approve this without requiring a voter referendum, I will consider them as having individually approved this tax increase. My request is simple: Let the people decide this one.

--John Knight, "Let county voters decide on Twins stadium tax," Star Tribune, April 29, 2005

Linda Koblock reveals that the proposed tax will actually raise $1.1 billion over 30 years, for a $478 million stadium:
The Hennepin County Board is proceeding with a request to the Legislature for authority to impose a .15 percent sales tax and is requesting an exemption to the referendum requirement that state statute mandates to issue bonds for constructing a $478 million Twins stadium in Minneapolis. This tax will raise $1.1 billion over 30 years.

A May 6 Star Tribune editorial ("This is a republic; stop with the referendum talk") implied that referendums aren't appropriate for this taxation proposal. Not true. State statute requires a referendum.

This is not a simple "3 cents on $20" tax deal that gives us outdoor baseball. That's the mantra the advocates want everyone to repeat, without asking for the details. Those advocates designed this, in timing and in process, to thwart effective public review and input. The people and businesses in Hennepin County affected by this taxing decision deserve to decide whether this billion-dollar tax proposal makes sense to them, and provides them with value for the public tax dollar. They also deserve a forum where they can speak and be heard.

--Linda Koblick, "Stadium rush job leaves public out," Star Tribune, May 10, 2005

If the Legislature allows Hennepin County to levy this tax without a referendum, as required by state law, we have truly entered the post-democracy, taxation without representation era. Voters should remember the outcome at the ballot box next year.

UPDATE: On "Midday" with Gary Eichten on Minnesota Public Radio this morning, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin were asked how they can favor this tax which will raise over twice the construction cost of the stadium. Both cited the need to make a variety of other "investments" in addition to the stadium. When asked how they can be against a referendum, Rybak cited the need to avoid the California model of government by plebiscite, letting elected officials off the hook for bad decisions. Minnesota "needs" this stadium, said both candidates. There was no discussion of the state law that mandates a referendum for this tax increase. Rybak and McLaughlin are seeking the DFL endorsement for mayor.

UPDATE: Read the stadium resolution passed by the Hennepin County Board. The money paragraph:
BE IT RESOLVED, that the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners approves a sales tax as discussed in the proposal, attached and incorporated herein by reference; that the proposed rate of tax will be .15 percent; that the revenues from the sales tax will be used to pay for ballpark financing, construction and development costs, capital improvements, and operations of the ballpark commission; in addition excess revenues, if any, may be used to fund youth activities and amateur sports, and library hours; that $1.1 billion, as estimated by the Minnesota Department of Revenue, will be raised before the tax expires; and that the estimated length to the tax will be until December 31, 2036.
Three words: LET US VOTE.

No comments: