Virginia Bills Would Give Washington Commanders Football Stadium Unlimited Funding

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It’s no secret that team owner Daniel Snyder wants to build not just a stadium, but a sprawling commercial and residential complex that fans call a “mini-city”, including a convention center, a concert hall, hotels, restaurants and accommodation. The tax revenue generated from this wider development would be used to repay the bonds, but it was widely understood that the bonds would only finance the construction of the stadium.

In fact, the wording of the House and Senate bills indicates that the bonds would fund a “facility,” but the legislation defines that term so broadly that it could encompass the entire development.

“I don’t think it should be called ‘stadium authority,'” said Michael D. Farren, senior fellow at George Mason University’s Mercatus Center. “I think they should call it ‘the authority of Snyder City’.”

Neither bill limits the amount of money that can be raised. And while the House bill limits bonds to 20 years, the Senate version would allow the stadium authority to issue new bonds in perpetuity — and collect the tax revenue to pay them off — to fund new bonds. new construction, additions, repairs and maintenance.

“It’s an endless stream of subsidies,” said Farren, whose research looks at the effects of government patronage to individual companies and industries. “As long as we keep certain bonds active, we can keep the sauce turning. I don’t think in reality you would ever see everything paid for.

Farren’s assessment flies in the face of how lawmakers have been pitched on the idea.

“Anything outside of the stadium is 100% Snyder’s obligation,” Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax), who sponsored the project, said Friday. of law in his room.

A lawyer and lobbyist for the team said on Saturday morning that the wording would be tightened if necessary. But he noted that the definition of “facility” — including references to restaurants, unmanned office spaces and lodging — was taken directly from part of the state code created in 1995. hoping to lure a Major League Baseball team to Virginia.

“There is certainly no intention of using the authority for anything other than to help fund part of the stadium and nothing else,” said Mark T. Bowles, president of McGuireWoods Consulting. “If this needs to be clarified in the bill, we will certainly do so.”

After that article was posted online, Bowles said Saturday afternoon that he had proposed a revision to clarify that intent. “We have prepared language to ensure that nothing other than part of the stadium can be funded,” he said.

Commanders spokesman Joe Maloney declined to comment.

Another person familiar with the team’s efforts in Richmond, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing negotiations, acknowledged that under the Senate bill, the team could broadcast to multiple takeovers of new 30-year bonds, “restarting the clock” for new debt. But he suggested it would keep the team at the stadium for even longer.

“We recognize that the Senate version of the bill provides authority to issue debt in the future, but we believe this would generally occur in the context of a strong ongoing relationship that may require upgrades” , did he declare. “And just like the original offer, would compel the team to stay and play until those obligations are paid or cancelled.”

Saslaw said on Saturday he would act to ensure the bonds could only be issued once and could only fund the stadium. “When Bill comes out of the conference, he will be tight like a drum,” he said.

Saslaw’s bill — like the House version sponsored by Barry D. Knight (R-Virginia Beach) — draws a distinction between the “facility” that the bonds would fund and the broader business “campus.”

But “installation” is defined in a broad sense. It includes elements typically associated with a sports venue: the stadium itself, training grounds, team offices, concessions and parking lots. But that also includes restaurants and retail without specifying that they are located in the stadium, potentially applying to an Armani store near the site as much as a Commanders merchandise store inside.

The definition also covers “housing”, office space for tenants other than the team and “other property on a site specified by the team and agreed to by the Authority and county/city”. [where the facility is located].”

The person close to the team said there was no intention to include things in the “installation” that are not “contiguous and closely related to football operations”. He noted that local officials would have to consent to what is included in the “ease”, calling their power “the control in this system”.

Legislation to create a Football Stadium Authority to oversee the financing and construction of the stadium has been welcomed in Richmond. Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) saluted him in January in a speech to the Legislative Assembly. The Republican-controlled House of Delegates and the Democratic-led Senate passed separate bills in February by wide bipartisan margins.

With the General Assembly due to adjourn in a week, a conference committee appointed Wednesday was expected to begin ironing out the differences between the House and Senate versions.

At least one of the attendees, Sen. Adam P. Ebbin (D-Alexandria), said he was wary of broad language.

“While I wonder if we should even pay for the stadium, this deal is so broad you could drive a truck there,” he said. “It needs to be drastically reduced. … We don’t need to pay for Daniel Snyder’s hotels, restaurants and offices that he rents out to other parties.

The Senate bill is more generous than the House version, according to an analysis by the Commonwealth Institute, a budget think tank.

The House version, for example, would require the team to spend at least half of the stadium’s naming rights revenue — something potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars — to cover debt service. The Senate version would allow the team to pocket that revenue.

House bill allows stadium authority to collect a share of sales tax revenue generated at ‘facility’ and ‘campus’ for 20 years or until bonds are repaid , whichever comes first. The Senate version has no time limit and includes sources of tax revenue beyond sales tax – including personal income tax revenue generated within the “installation” , the income from the corporate income tax of the team and the tax income from the intermediary entities.

Both bills would also allow the stadium authority to levy a share of local taxes, if localities agree.

“The differences are stark between the two,” said House Appropriations Committee member Mark D. Sickles (D-Fairfax), MP, who said team representatives told him that “the draft House bill would never be enough, would never be enough to lure the Washington Commanders to Virginia.

The Senate bill has some restrictions not found in the House version, including a provision that would exclude income from sports betting and e-commerce.

Commanders are contractually obligated to play at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., until 2027, after which they could stay or seek another home. The team has been looking for a new home for years in Virginia, Maryland and DC

Maryland and DC have stepped up efforts in recent weeks as the proposal in Virginia moved forward and the team rebranded itself with a new name to replace one widely seen as racist.

All three jurisdictions are actively courting the team at a time when some members of Congress, including Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), are calling for the elimination of tax subsidies for new professional sports stadiums.

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