An Oklahoma congressman wants to close a tax loophole used to finance stadium projects like the one planned for Las Vegas, saying it’s a handout to wealthy team owners and sports leagues and takes tax money away from projects that truly need it.
Rep. Steve Russell’s No Tax Subsidies for Stadiums Act would end the federal tax-free status of municipal bonds used to finance stadiums.
“It would effectively disallow these types of tax loopholes for these federal tax-exempt municipal bonds from being used to finance professional sports facilities," he said, "So, it just targets the abuse”
The second-term Republican lawmaker cited a recent Brookings Institute study that says since 2000, nearly $4 billion in federal taxes have been avoided in 36 stadium construction and renovation projects.
“Does the NFL want to pick on taxpayers?” Russell said. “Give me a break. It's bad enough you pay $12 for a hot dog.”
Russell said the funding package for the planned Las Vegas stadium, which includes bonds issued by Clark County, would cost the federal treasury $120 million. The bonds, to be repaid through room tax revenue, would help fund construction of the $1.9 billion stadium, which would be home to the NFL's Raiders and UNLV's football team.
“We are not targeting the Oakland Raiders or the fine people of Nevada," he said, "What we are trying to do is end waste”
Should Russell’s measure pass, it would not affect financing of the Las Vegas stadium if those bonds are issued before the bill becomes law.
He said he received bipartisan positive feedback after writing an article in the Wall Street Journal headlined, "The Oakland Raiders Sack the Taxpayers." (Subscription required.)
Russell, who represents the Oklahoma City area, said municipalities should shoulder the costs of stadiums and arenas, as Oklahoma City did with the Chesapeake Energy Arena, where the NBA’s Thunder play.
He said the voters agreed to raise taxes to build the stadium rather than issue bonds.
“We didn’t make people in Las Vegas pay for our stadium.”
Rep. Steve Russell, questions stadium financing