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Citizen Group: Nassau County Is Latest Scene of Taxpayer-Funded Sports Boondoggle
For Immediate Release August 2, 2011
Brent Mead Douglas Kellogg, (703) 683-5700
(Alexandria, VA) – Nassau County voters heading to the polls today on a $400 million bond issue to construct a new home for the New York Islanders are only the latest taxpayers being asked to underwrite sports-venue deals of questionable merit, according to the National Taxpayers Union (NTU). The non-partisan NTU, a grassroots organization that has previously fought against taxpayer subsidies for professional sports teams elsewhere, has over 18,000 members in New York and 362,000 members nationwide.
“When you look at the timing and the structure of this deal it seems like a clear attempt to skate past serious oversight,” said Brent Mead, State Government Affairs Manager for NTU. “Time and again politicians make deals with team owners on the backs of overburdened taxpayers. History shows these deals are not only wasteful but still leave the door open for teams to move.”
The 30-year cost of the bonds will likely total $800 million. Once the new arena is completed the Islanders will agree to pay a $14 million annual rent. The county would also receive an estimated $4.9 million in assorted sales tax revenue. However, the projected revenues fall well short of annual interest payments of $28 million. Even worse for desperate fans, Wang would still have the ability to sell the team. Leaving open the possibility of the Islanders moving, and leaving Nassau taxpayers with a major expense for little reward.
The resulting 3.5%-4% property tax increase to pay for the new bonds would be stacked on top of an already staggering burden. The average Nassau County homeowner pays $11,500 per year in property taxes, among the heaviest loads in the entire country.
The Islanders added salt to taxpayers’ wounds by placing the measure on the ballot today, rather on a regularly scheduled primary or general election ballot. Not only will turnout be far below normal, at around 10%, but if the measure fails, taxpayers are still on the hook for the $2.2 million in extra election costs.
“After a year in which Nassau County ended up over $100 million in the red and was placed under state financial control, taxpayers just might choose to send the backers of this proposal to the penalty box for financial high-sticking,” Mead concluded. “Whatever the electoral outcome in Nassau County, taxpayers across the country should remain concerned about future power-plays on their wallets in the name of pro sports.”
NTU is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working for lower taxes, smaller government, and economic freedom at all levels. More information, including studies on taxpayer-funded sport facilities, is available at www.ntu.org.