Nevada Approves Taxpayer Dollars to Build MLB Stadium

The ongoing saga of the Oakland A’s impending move to Las Vegas continues to demonstrate what’s wrong with using taxpayer money to subsidize professional sports teams.

The latest news came last week when Nevada Governor Joe Lombardo signed a bill gifting $380 million of public funding to assist in building a Major League Baseball stadium in Las Vegas. The funding all but closes the deal that will result in the Athletics pulling up stakes in their 55-year home of Oakland, California, for the high desert.

Lombardo had called a special session of Nevada’s legislature to push the deal across the plate because state lawmakers had allowed it to die in their regular session. Before agreeing to the deal, lawmakers made both Lombardo and the team’s ownership, which will become known as the Las Vegas Athletics, pay a larger price. ESPN summarizes the extra items that were added to the bill Lombardo signed:

After the original bill met resistance from officials, senators met with A’s officials and received improvements, including the use of a suite at the stadium for community groups, an annual $1.5 million donation to the community and resources toward helping homelessness in Las Vegas.

Additionally, two other measures that had been vetoed by Lombardo—providing 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for certain businesses and forcing monorail projects to comply with the state’s wage laws—were tied into the bill.

Let’s go through these in order.

A “Suite” Deal for Community Groups

If you didn’t know it already, politicians look out for two things above all others: themselves and those who support their election campaigns. By tagging this item onto the bill, they did both, scoring the use of a luxury suite at the still-to-be-built stadium for their politically influential friends. These friends would otherwise pay out of pocket for the privilege of watching baseball games while separated from the fans in the stands.

$1.5 Million a Year to Address Homelessness in Las Vegas

Adding injury to insult, the Athletics’ ownership will also be made to pony up $1.5 million a year to fund efforts to address homelessness in Las Vegas. Hopefully, the recipients of the funding will apply the hard-earned lessons learned from the spending of billions of taxpayer dollars that failed to solve homelessness in the Bay Area the Athletics are escaping.

Sticking It to Lombardo, Part 1

During the regular session, Governor Lombardo vetoed a measure to compel some businesses to provide employees up to twelve weeks of paid family and medical leave. Here’s how the Nevada Independent reported the veto:

SB429, a bill presented by Sen. Edgar Flores (D-Las Vegas) and Democratic former Lt. Gov. Kate Marshall, would have required companies with 50-plus employees that are seeking tax abatements from the state to provide their employees with paid family and medical leave for at least 12 weeks at a rate of at least 55 percent of the employee’s salary….

Lombardo in his veto message said the bill would apply “a unique precondition to a narrowly tailored group of businesses who are pursuing Nevada performance-based tax abatements” on top of existing state law requiring certain businesses to provide paid leave. He argued it would reduce Nevada’s competitiveness in attracting businesses to the state.

“SB429 would place Nevada at a severe disadvantage in its work to bring desirable businesses within its borders,” he said. “My commitment has been and will continue to be maintaining a streamlined and non-overly regulated state government structure to ensure Nevada remains open for business.”

In signing the bill to fund the A’s new stadium, Lombardo would appear to now believe that having a major league baseball team in Las Vegas more than makes up for that disadvantage.

Sticking It to Lombardo, Part 2

State lawmakers also forced Lombardo to eat crow over his veto of their bill to force whoever pays to build railroads or monorails to pay “prevailing” wages for the labor. The Nevada Independent explains the governor’s rationale for the veto, which would mainly benefit labor unions:

SB299 would have removed an exemption from existing law and required construction or any other workers for railroad and monorail projects to be paid the prevailing wage for that work, regardless of the involvement of a public body in the contract. SB299 garnered bipartisan support in both houses, passing in the Assembly 37-5 and in the Senate 15-6….

Of SB299, Lombardo said its requirements would burden taxpayers for monorail projects and be “irrelevant to railroad projects since the Federal Railroad Administration already requires prevailing wages.”

In his veto message, Lombardo also said:

“Since this bill is aimed at increasing construction related costs and burdens for those seeking to develop infrastructure in Nevada, I cannot support it.”

But add a major league baseball stadium for the A’s into the mix, and it becomes A-OK! On the plus side, the cost is small. As Lombardo observes, that’s because federal law requiring so-called prevailing wages already applies.

On the other hand, it opens another way for Nevada’s politicians to extract more money from the A’s stadium district to benefit their friends. Their new stadium will be built at the location of the soon-to-be-demolished Tropicana casino and resort on Las Vegas Boulevard. That location is about a 15-20 minute walk from the south terminal of the Las Vegas Monorail.

Even though that’s a relatively short distance to walk, that walk will be more exerting than elsewhere because of Las Vegas’ extremely high summer temperatures. There will almost certainly be a demand to extend the monorail to the A’s new stadium. With the stadium deal, the means of extracting more from those who will pay to benefit the politicians’ friends are already in place.

Maybe the A’s should have looked to move to Reno instead.

Craig Eyermann is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute.
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