by Michael Lowrey
The General Assembly isn’t exactly embracing the city’s plan of raising the prepared food tax by a percent for 30 years to fund $125 million worth of improvements to Bank of America Stadium. Should this come as a surprise? Absolutely not, though Mayor Anthony Foxx, members of Charlotte City Council not named Warren Cooksey, and part of the Uptown crowd are likely in deep shock that such a thing could happen.
For their benefit, let’s go over why state legislators might not be in love with the city’s proposals. The General Assembly is dominated by Republicans, who don’t like to raise taxes. They might give a locality the option of doing so and may even require a referendum, but only if it can make a strong argument as to why it needs the extra money. Charlotte City Council has utterly failed to do so — Charlotte wants a tax increase that generates a lot more money than is needed to pay for the portion of Bank of America Stadium upgrades the city has agreed to cover while not really indicating what the city will do with the extra money beside some very vague talk about amateur athletics and maybe meeting the next set of Panthers’ stadium demands 15 years down the road.
State legislators don’t find this anywhere near a good enough argument to justify the proposed tax increase. And that extends to Democrats from Mecklenburg County, which gives you some idea how utterly and completely the city has failed to set forth a compelling argument. They do seem willing, however, to let the city pay for stadium upgrades from existing occupancy and prepared food taxes.
This in turn upsets city officials:
Deputy City Manager Ron Kimble, a lead negotiator in the stadium talks, said current taxes wouldn’t generate enough money for the Panthers, amateur sports and the convention center.
“It would not be fiscally prudent nor maybe possible to fund all three needs out of existing revenue sources,” Kimble said. “But we will continue to work with our legislators. … We are appreciative of them at least trying to find ways to keep the Panthers in Charlotte and in North Carolina.”
Interesting choice of words by Kimble, how the Panthers, amateur sports and a refit for the convention center are all “needs”, not wants. And that’s especially true as the amateur sports and convention center “needs” to date have no dollar figure associated with them. Or at least no dollar figure that Kimble and friends feel they need to share with the public.
And without details like cost, its very difficult for legislators to take the city claiming it’s broke and thus needs — there’s that word again — more tax revenue seriously.
Bonus observation #1: The Charlotte Observer had a good editorial out Sunday on this topic.
Bonus observation #2: Amateur sports is the economic development fad of the moment. Give it five years, and the entire country will be awash with underutilized facilities and people will be wondering “what were we thinking when we built all these?”