The California budget deal — otherwise known as the great experiment in whether conservatives are right that we don’t really need Medicare or public schools — could have an unexpected effect on stadium deals, with a provision being voted on as soon as today that would extend the life of redevelopment areas for up to 40 years. “It prevents the cuts to local government from occurring,” Senate Republican leader Dennis Hollingsworth boasted of his measure.
Um, no. Redevelopment areas use tax-increment financing, or TIFs: They don’t actually generate new revenue, but rather redirect new property taxes to local governments (or, more commonly, to developers promising to build projects that will hike local property tax receipts). Needless to say, this revenue shuffle has proven popular with stadium boosters, despite a compelling pile of evidence that TIFs only end up making Swiss cheese of your local tax base.
The reason the state is pushing this plan, in any case, is because as part of the deal, the state would get to siphon off 10% of future TIF revenues, and borrow against that revenue now, helping close the state’s current budget hole at the expense of future state budgets. It’s a common theme to the budget deal: As our old friend Stanford economist Roger Noll told U.S. News and World Report: “In the short run it gets us through this year, and in the long run the same problem comes back even worse next year because $10 billion worth of gimmicks has been used that cannot be replicated.”
But enough about budgets; what does this mean for stadiums? According to the L.A. Times, it would allow the City of Industry to siphon off “hundreds of millions” of dollars in coming years for infrastructure to support Ed Roski’s planned NFL stadium; it would also presumably aid teams like the San Francisco 49ers and Oakland Athletics in their stadium plans, as both teams have previously mulled TIF funding as a revenue source. Roski and his company, notes the Times, have contributed more than $1.2 million in the last six years to state politicians; when the vote comes up, we’ll see if his money was well spent.