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Senators introduce bill to prevent use of municipal funds to finance sports arenas

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Update: Rovell’s report left out a crucial part of the bill. From Cory Booker’s website:

The bill would close a loophole in the tax code that allows professional sports teams to finance new stadiums with municipal bonds that are exempt from federal taxes.

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The bill would end federal subsidies for stadium financing, but would not prevent localities and states from bidding and offering economic incentives to teams. In eliminating this wasteful expenditure, the bill also unties the hands of local governments to finance their stadium subsidies with taxes on tickets and in-stadium purchases—in other words, allowing states to target taxes on the people who actually use and benefit from the subsidy. Current tax law does not allow local governments to finance federal stadium subsidies by levying taxes on stadium purchases.

(Cap-tip to Royalsretro in the comments)

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ESPN’s Darren Rovell reports that Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and James Lankford (R-OK) will introduce a bill that will prevent the use of municipal funds to finance sports arenas.

In a public statement, Booker said:

Professional sports teams generate billions of dollars in revenue,” Booker said in a statement. “There’s no reason why we should give these multimillion-dollar businesses a federal tax break to build new stadiums. It’s not fair to finance these expensive projects on the backs of taxpayers, especially when wealthy teams end up reaping most of the benefits.

Rovell notes that the Yankees ($431 million) and Mets ($185 million) have received the largest amounts of money in federal subsidies according to a report from the Brookings Institute published last September.

A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, published in 2001, concluded, “The weight of economic evidence, however, shows that taxpayers spend a lot of money and ultimately don’t get much back. And when this paltry return is compared with other potential uses of the funds, the investment, almost always, seems unwise.”

The public financing of sports arenas is essentially corporate welfare. The owners receive free money, making the hazy promise of helping to boost the local economy by creating permanent jobs. That is almost never true, as many stadium jobs are temporary and seasonal. In other words, the jobs created pay little and provide little, if any, benefits like health insurance. While the owners pocket profits created by the stadium and by criminally underpaying employees, those employees then become dependent on the government to survive. Walmart, for example, has been taking advantage of this for years. According to Forbes, Walmart’s low pay causes their employees to cost U.S. taxpayers an aggregate $6.2 billion in public assistance despite Walmart taking in $132 billion for the year ending April 30, 2016. Stadium owners create the same situation for their employees and for taxpayers.

How Yu Darvish tipped his pitches during the World Series

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You hear a lot about pitchers tipping pitches. It’s often offered up post-facto as an excuse for poor performance by the pitcher himself or his own team. It’s sort of like the “best shape of my life” thing being offered in the offseason to talk about why the player got injured or played badly the previous year. “Smitty’s stuff is still great, he was just tipping his pitches,” said a source close to the player whose stuff is not really great anymore.

Which isn’t to say that pitchers don’t tip pitches. Of course they do. Opposing teams look for it, pick up on it and take advantage of it whenever they can. It’s just that (a) the opposing team has an interest in not talking about it, lest the pitcher STOP tipping its pitches; and (b) the guy actually tipping his pitches doesn’t want to talk specifically about it lest he starts doing it again.

Which is what makes this article at Sports Illustrated so interesting. In it Tom Verducci talks to an anonymous Houston Astros player who explains how Dodgers starter Yu Darvish was tipping his pitches during the World Series, leading to him getting absolutely shellacked in Games 3 and 7. The upshot: the Astros knew when a slider or a cutter was coming, they waited for it and they teed off.

Darvish is a free agent now. I’m guessing, whoever signs him, knows exactly what they’ll gave him work on the first day of spring training.