Sunday, April 08, 2012

Tax dollars for a Vikings stadium is still wrong in principle

This week in the Vikings stadium drama saw a spat between two men I respect very much-Representative John Kreisel and Senator Mike Parry.  Kreisel accused Parry of torpedoing his Vikings funding bill, and Parry said they had worked out their differences.  The public dispute doesn't do anyone any good, and the facts of the matter have not changed over the last few years. 

No matter how you dress it up or what you call it, using state tax dollars to fund a new Vikings stadium is wrong.  Conservatives and Republicans (not always the same thing) have used a variety of sales pitches; building a stadium will put thousands of Minnesotans to work (but if you accept that you have to accept the bonding bill as job creator myth as well), if the Vikings leave Minnesota we will have a net loss of tax dollars (the same flawed logic that got Northwest Airlines a sweet deal that it never made good on), government financed stadiums are the norm around the country for the NFL and other major sports (and we wonder why states are in such poor financial shape), the Vikings need a new state of the art facility on order to be financially competitive (it defies logic to argue that the free market needs massive government intervention).

The current funding proposal sounds like a winner-give charitable gambling new and updated ways to make money and the increase in gambling will provide the state's portion of the revenue.  But even if you overlook the small fact that it goes against conservative principles to use state tax dollars for a stadium, the fact is that this proposal will hurt charitable gambling, which will hurt Minnesotans who rely on the proceeds of charitable gambling.  As an officer in my VFW post, I have gotten a veritable education on how charitable gambling works in Minnesota from the inside over the last few years.

The idea that allowing e-pulltabs and electronic bingo will induce a new wave of Minnesotans to start gambling is simply false.  The majority of people who play pull tabs currently do so because it is part of the culture they live in, not because they are hoping to win money.  Pull tabs and bingo are a way to pass the time while socializing with friends.  Moreover, the target market in outstate Minnesota for charitable gambling is over 40 years old.  These are primarily people who are set in their ways and resistant to change, which is why the smoking ban had such a terrible effect on charitable gambling in Minnesota.

But even if an injection of technology into gambling could produce a boon to state coffers, it still stands against conservative principles to do so.  While I am not one who opposes gambling on moral grounds, there are plenty of conservatives and Republicans who do.  From their perspective, any expansion of gambling is wrong-but expanding gambling in every bar across Minnesota would have a more damaging effect than expanding gambling by way of Racino or a new casino in downtown Minneapolis.

Last but not least, the idea that new forms of gambling will create revenue where none previously existed is an illusion.  The e-pulltab proposal has evolved over the last month, but is always depends on a specific new tax levied on charitable gambling receipts.  To offset the new tax, the bill offered lower tax rates on gambling (lower in this case meaning back to the rate the state used to charge before it increased it to help cover the budget deficit).  Think about that for a minute-the stadium bill would create a new tax to fund the stadium, but lower another tax rate to offset the increase.  A tax increase on one hand with a tax decrease on the other means a net of zero-yet the state is still paying millions each year towards the stadium.  If the authors of this bill aren't re-elected to the legislature this November, they have a great future in used car sales.

Strike one-using tax money to fund a private business is still wrong.

Strike two-technology wont kickstart charitable gambling in Minnesota.

Strike three-playing shell games with taxes is an insult to the taxpayers.

I am a dyed in the wool Vikings fan.  I even watched or listened to every game last year, painful as it was.  I certainly don't want to see the team leave, and I would love to not have to go through this stadium debate every year.

But there is no world in which giving in to government funding of a private sports franchise is conservative. 

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