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Vikings’ New Taxpayer Funded Stadium Already Hitting Fiscal Snags
It’s the same old story, but taxpayers can’t seem to duck sports owners pining for new stadiums for their teams. Wealthy owners continue to use questionable tactics to extract tax money from fans for funding their “palaces.”
Their argument is always that a new stadium will increase tourism, which will increase sales, which will make everyone the requisite profit needed to pay back in spades the tax money spent up front. Unfortunately for the countless cities who have tried it, the bargain quickly turns into a boondoggle.
The state of Minnesota is the latest state to to push taxpayers into the publicly funded stadium trap. The state and the city of Minneapolis have thrown in almost $500 million, which is over 50 percent of the total cost of a stadium, for the Minnesota Vikings.
A previous NTUF study concluded that when public contributions represented over 50 percent of the costs, as is the case with the Vikings, the stadiums will be $65 million more expensive on average. Recently, the Vikings, the city, and their fans are finding NTUF’s finding to be all too real.
Now, Team officials say they will have to cut out certain amenities from the proposed stadium just weeks before the groundbreaking. “We only have $975 million in the budget, and there’s only so many things you can get under that number,” said Vikings Vice President Lester Bagley. Among the casualties of the soaring costs is a parking garage and escalators. The team is also imposing $2,500 personal seat licenses for three fourths of the stadium’s seats. Is this an attempt to get more taxpayer money, or just part of accessing contingency funds? We’ll have to wait and see. Surely taxpayers who are shelling out more than half the stadium’s cost will not shed a tear over this “problem.”
As was the case in Detroit, St. Louis, Atlanta, and Washington; taxpayer funded sports stadiums don’t solve local woes. Owners and politicians pitch these stadiums as a ‘short term cost, long term profit’ venture for fans. But for taxpayers there’s ‘short term cost, long term debt’.
Sources: Deadspin.com, Minneapolis Star Tribune, National Taxpayers Union Foundation0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Government ‘Shutdown’: Day 10
Website waste: The now infamous and floundering government website for Obamacare cost taxpayers over $634 million to create. Despite knowing the October 1st deadline was coming for months, the site has been marred by poorly written code, glitches, and crashes. Read more at Digital Trends.
Overbuilt Courts: A new Government Accountability Office report reveals that most federal courthouses built from 2000-2010 were built larger than Congress authorized. The GAO found 3.56 million square feet of unneeded space costing taxpayers $835 million. More details at USA Today.
Extravagant charges: The director of a Washington state educational group for low income children has been using taxpayer money to buy “expensive meals, unnecessary flights and a hotel stay in a presidential suite.” To this day, Loueta Johnson remains on the job. KIMA TV has more details.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Government ‘Shutdown’: Day 9
‘Shutdown’ Theater: Fox News compiled a list of seven operations that were halted over the last nine days that saved practically no taxpayer funds. The list includes scenic spots on the sides of roads to jogging paths that happen to be on public land.
Obamacare phones: The state of Tennessee’s healthcare co-op is offering new enrollees in the healthcare exchanges free smart phones if they enroll. The plan originally received a federal grant of $73 million. Read more at the Daily Caller.
Failure to report: One in five companies that received taxpayer assistance from the state of Wisconsin have not filed a report detailing where the money went. The reporting system was created in response to the revelation of $12 million of overdue loans from previous years. Find out more details from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Given the work that National Taxpayers Union and NTU Foundation pursue every day, it becomes all too easy to focus on the public faces of the organizations: those who are representing the taxpayers’ cause in the media, on Capitol Hill, or with the policy community.
Yet, we should also acknowledge and value the contributions of those who aren’t in front of Congress, or a camera. It is with much sadness but much more fondness that we do so now, by pausing to remember our Director of Finance and Accounting Bill Fey, who passed away Sunday peacefully after a brief illness.
Bill had served NTU and NTU Foundation since 2006, bringing with him decades of experience in the intricacies of for-profit and nonprofit financial operations, including stints with a leasing company, a law firm, and two associations prior to joining us. He also had a top-notch education in his field through a Bachelor of Science degree from the U.S. Naval Academy and an M.B.A. (finance) from American University.
Though he could have deployed his talents toward more lucrative pursuits, Bill chose to give his steady hand to our operations, ranging from standard accounting to the task of interacting with outside auditors. These obligations are vital enough at organizations like ours that espouse (and pride themselves on) financial accountability, but Bill was more than a bookkeeper. He brought with him other skills that we came to rely on, including personnel policy development, property management, investment strategy, and conference planning. In short, he helped to provide some of the vital infrastructure that enabled NTU’s and NTU Foundation’s activities to proceed full speed ahead.
Bill was also a true compatriot in our endless struggles on behalf of limited government. He offered useful anecdotes from his past interactions with bureaucracies, and pointed out interesting news developments that might be useful in our outreach to taxpayers. He also never failed to maintain a wry sense of humor that reminded us to take our daily travails in stride and have confidence in the course our movement was charting.
Bill’s devotion to NTU and NTU Foundation was evident in his insistence upon imparting as much of his knowledge as possible to those who had to carry on his duties. His wife, son, daughter, and others who knew him can be proud of this dedication. Perhaps also they can take some comfort in the words of Walt Whitman, which seem appropriate as we reflect on the passing of a former Naval Academy man:
“O we can wait no longer
We too take ship O soul,
Joyous we too launch out on trackless seas,
Fearless for unknown shores …”
We wish Bill’s loved ones less difficult days ahead. Though we will miss him, we know he has joyously, fearlessly reached another shore.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Subscribe to NTU's podcast "Speaking of Taxpayers" via iTunes!
NTUF's Demian Brady joins the podcast to talk Debt Ceiling and the federal budget, and the Outrage of the Week! hammers one government so-called "shutdown" casualty that should concern taxpayers.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Government Shutdown Day 7:
Tribal fraud: An internal audit of Native American tribal areas across America has revealed extensive waste and fraud totaling tens of millions of dollars. “Embezzlement, paychecks for do-nothing jobs and employees who over-billed hours and expenses,” were commonplace, yet the acts have gone unpunished for years. Read more at WSLS.
Parking lot shutdown: The National Park Service has closed the parking lot at the home of George Washington, Mt. Vernon due to the government shutdown. Although, the park is privately owned and remains open. Read more shutdown stories at the Daily Caller.
Furniture fiasco: An investigation of Chicago public school contracts showed major discrepancies. Certain furniture ordered by schools was not up to specifications when delivered and overcharging routinely occurred. As a result of a local news investigation, the schools have instituted major reforms and are investigating the issues. ABC7 has more details.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Latest Taxpayer's Tab: Debt Ceiling Debate Looming
The federal government is currently in the second week of its shutdown, due to Congressional disagreements over which parts of the government to fund -- and more importantly, at what levels. However, a larger and potentially more disruptive issue is looming should Congress fail to act in the coming days. The U.S. Treasury says our debt will eclipse the statutory debt limit of nearly $16.7 trillion on October 17, and that could have negative ripple effects throughout the global economy.
In the latest Taxpayer's Tab, NTUF offers a bit of background on the debt limit and how recent spending patterns have played into the budgetary debates on Capitol Hill. Research and Outreach Manager Dan Barrett put together an infographic with some perspective on the composition of our debt and where it's been over the years. There's also discussion of a blog post on mandatory vs. discretionary spending trends and how the steady rise in mandatory spending as a percentage of federal outlays has shaped the debate over how heavily we should finance government activities with debt.
In addition, NTUF continues to score bills as part of our BillTally project & the latest tab features some of the research that's been happening on that front. In this week's edition, NTUF looked at:
With the Nebraska Legislature’s 2014 session only three months away, the Tax Foundation and Platte Institute have teamed up to release a new book detailing powerful tax reform options for the Cornhusker State. Like their conversation-starting publication on North Carolina tax reform (which helped Tar Heel lawmakers achieve historic tax relief), Tax Foundation’s Building on Success: A Guide to Fair, Simple, Pro-Growth Tax Reform for Nebraska should help get the ball rolling in Nebraska.
While the state currently enjoys low unemployment and a high quality of life, there is plenty of room for improvement. Tax Foundation’s Joe Henchman explains that “beneath that success are anxieties: worries about the future of agricultural prices, the outward migration of young people and retirees, the cultural perception of the Plains states, and heavy reliance on tax incentives.” The state currently ranks 31st on the State Business Tax Climate Index.
To address these concerns about Nebraska’s future, the guide offers the following tax reform options:
• Option 1: Revenue-neutral plan that would lower the top individual income tax rate from 6.84 (highest among neighboring states except Iowa) to 5.5 percent, simplifying the current system from four brackets to two. This plan would also impose a single corporate income tax rate of 5.5 percent (top rate is currently 7.81 percent), slightly expand the sales tax base, and strengthen caps on property taxes.
• Option 2: In addition to the lower rates detailed in Option 1, this plan includes “triggers” that would further reduce the corporate income tax rate if revenue surpasses stated goals. The first trigger would lower the rate to 4 percent, and the second trigger to 3 percent.
• Option 3: Builds upon Option 2 by adding individual income tax “triggers.” The first trigger would reduce the rate to a flat 4 percent, and the second trigger to a flat 3 percent personal income tax.
Each of these plans is discussed in further detail in the book, along with in-depth study of Nebraska’s economy and previous tax reform efforts in the state. Moving forward, this guide should serve as a valuable resource for Nebraska lawmakers looking to implement a more growth-oriented tax system. As Washington continues to rack up debt and increase taxes, it’s up to state lawmakers to grant relief to overburdened taxpayers. If Cornhusker tax reform is successful, citizens will be able to keep more of their hard-earned pay and businesses will enjoy more of their profits, allowing for greater investments, new jobs, and a higher quality of life for all Nebraskans.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
As Congress continues to play budgetary chicken, prolonging the government shutdown, another debate is brewing that might or might not be fixed with a budget deal: the debt ceiling. The last time we came close to the federal borrowing limit, Congress pushed through the Budget Control Act, which put in place budget caps in exchange for an increase in how much debt the government can issue. However, BCA lacked any real entitlement reform and taxpayers are again looking at a divided and dysfunctional Congress as the debt ceiling deadline ticks down to zero. If the ceiling is not raised, the U.S. could default on our debt, sending shockwaves through the global economy. However, it might be the jump start that the U.S. needs to bring about true reforms and fiscal sanity.
To supplement this week's Taxpayer's Tab, NTUF compiled some information so that folks can get a read on where the government is at on the debt and how we got in this position (hint: entitlements).
Do you think the U.S. should raise the debt ceiling? If not, how would you get the country's finances back in order (especially because a default would likely lower our credit rating)?0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Obama's Canceled Asia Trip Saves Taxpayers $8.4 Million
In the wake of the government's shutdown, the White House announced on Thursday that President Obama would no longer be traveling to Asia this week.
The trip, which was scheduled to begin today and last through October 12, would have taken the President to two regional conferences (the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit and the East Asia Summit) and four different countries, including Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, and the Phillippines. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney cited "the difficulty in moving forward with foreign travel in the face of a shutdown" as the primary reason for cancelling the trip.
The full extent of what that trip may have cost U.S. taxpayers remains unknown. However, NTUF was able to compile a partial estimate consisting of the cost to fly Air Force One from Washington, D.C. to the countries President Obama had planned to visit.
Flight times were estimated via travelmath.com. The $179,750 cost per flight hour reflects the latest figure given to the Congressional Research Service (CRS) by the U.S. Air Force.
It should be noted that these estimates do not take into account any refueling stops, additional aircraft support, cargo transport, hotel and lodging costs, or any of the other myriad security and logistical measures taken anytime a President travels abroad. Many of these costs are unknown but are estimated to amount to tens of millions of dollars, in some instances.
For more on what it takes to move the President overseas, as well as the general lack of transparency when it comes to those costs, check out NTUF's latest study on Presidential Travel, "Up In The Air".0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts