In 2003 major league baseball fans persuaded Oregon lawmakers to help finance a stadium worthy of the-then Montreal Expos. In 2004, the Expos became the Washington Nationals, though the financing bill that was to help bring them to Oregon remained on the books.
Now a group of largely Portland-area lawmakers hopes to eliminate the financing law and leave major league baseball supporters to find another way to build a stadium. We hope the lawmakers are successful.
The law would allow the state to put $150 million toward a stadium, not all that much, at least by professional sports standards. It would allow the state to collect income taxes on money earned by baseball players and their wives and set them aside to help finance a stadium. The tax would be collected on both home and visiting team salaries over 30 years and used in much the same way cities use tax increment financing to build low-income housing and pay for it with taxes collected over time. The law limits the state’s collections to $150 million, which in 2003 was expected to cover half the cost of the stadium.
It didn’t make sense then and it doesn’t make sense now.
Major league baseball may be the greatest thing since sliced bread, but the idea that the state should set aside some of its tax revenue to bring it here makes no sense anytime. It makes even less sense as lawmakers work to find ways to increase revenues — taxes — to spend on public employee retirement, schools and a host of other worthy causes.
State Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, is a lead sponsor of the repeal bill, just as she was of the bill that created the tax plan in the first place. She was wrong then; she’s right today. She knows Oregon has no business picking up part of the tab for a baseball stadium.