St. Louis comptroller now fine with new taxes for Rams stadium, so long as they’re not her new taxes

St. Louis city comptroller Darlene Green wants to make clear some things about her opposition to the now-dead-apparently funding plan for a new St. Louis Rams stadium:

  • “I want to be part of the solution to saving the Rams. I want to be part of the solution for building a new stadium,” Green told KTVI-TV.
  • Green’s problem with Gov. Jay Nixon’s last plan was that it would not only saddle St. Louis with the $6 million a year in taxes currently going to pay off the 20-year-old Jones Dome, but with a roughly equal amount (give or take, depending on how you count present value) in kicked-back stadium sales and income taxes: “Now, I am understanding that this [version of the plan] is outdated. So they need to work harder to deliver on their promises to the taxpayers: no new taxes.”
  • The comptroller suggested instead creating a statewide sports authority to raise tourist tax money for improvements for all six of the state’s major-league teams: the Rams, Blues, Cardinals, and Kansas CIty Royals, Chiefs, and Sporting KC. “Those guys need to go after those tourist and visitor dollars. That’s a responsible way to fund major league sports these days. Think major league, stop thinking small.”
  • She’s only one of three votes on the Board of Estimate and Apportionment (the other two are Mayor Francis Slay and Board of Aldermen President Lewis Reed), so even if the board of aldermen approves a stadium funding plan, it’s not up to her to decide.

Okay, so what appears to be going on here is two things: 1) Green is trying to draw a “no new taxes” line in the sand over that $6 million in Jones Dome money, though even that would really involve new taxes (or old taxes extended farther into the future, which is the same thing); and 2) Green isn’t opposed to spending tax money on stadiums, she just doesn’t want it to be her tax money. It’s the “tax the guy behind the tree” principle, and while it’s sort of reasonable for a comptroller whose main concern is her own city budget, it’s not the best way to run public policy.

In any event, it does seem like we’re headed from “Should we give the Rams $400-million-plus in public money?” territory into “How should we find $400-million-plus in public money to give the Rams?”, which is usually the first step toward some kind of horse-trading that results in approval. Not always, mind you — sometimes nobody can decide who’s going to be the guy behind the tree — but usually. The money that Rams owner Stan Kroenke has spent on buying up land in Inglewood looks like it’ll be worth every penny.


12 comments on “St. Louis comptroller now fine with new taxes for Rams stadium, so long as they’re not her new taxes

  1. The other teams in the state would surely be wanting their statewide Sports Authority money ASAP, whether they are truly needed or not. The Blues, as talked about on this site already want improvements/or new arena. In Arizona the Authority has run out of money and only certain locales benefitted. Unless there is just one team in the state, this is a very bad idea, as we currently see in Florida also, with so many hands being reached out.

  2. “I want to be part of the solution to saving the Rams.”

    The Rams aren’t under any threat. They might not be playing in St. Louis in the future, but as a franchise, the Rams are going to still be a thing.

  3. Maybe I’m just being overly optimistic, but I don’t see how they can do the sort of horse-trading you suggest. The state can’t contribute any more money without a vote, and the county can’t contribute any money without a vote, and they don’t have time to do a vote of any sort now.

    Who knows how the Aldermen would vote on this, but if Green opposes it (which she will if she sticks to not going above the $6 million), Slay would almost certainly approve, which leaves Reed. I don’t know much about him, but he seems at least skeptical of the stadium proposal.

    To me, I just don’t see how they can get this done unless Green or Reed flip their position.

  4. Yes Aqib, what she meant to say was that taxpayer funds are needed to save the Rams’ owner a few hundred million dollars that, unless he completely mismanaged the team, he will more than make up over the life of the stadium.

    Stan Kronke could build his own stadium with his own funds and credit and keep the team in St Louis if he wanted to. Owning an NFL team is the closest thing to printing money. But he knows there are suckers who would rather use tax money to finance some rich guy’s hobby.

  5. I doubt that Kroenke would more than make up the cost of a stadium on new revenues. It’s not like people are going to be clamoring to spend money at a 10-year-old stadium ten years from now more than at a 30-year-old one.

    If you mean “Kroenke could easily pay for it out of his profits from being an NFL owner,” that’s a different story. But he doesn’t want a new stadium just to have a new stadium, he wants one so he can get richer, and the less he pays toward it, the easier that is.

  6. “The state can’t contribute any more money without a vote, and the county can’t contribute any money without a vote…”

    What makes you think so? As has already been shown, all you need is the right judge with the right attitude, and… presto! We don’t need no stinkin’ votes.

  7. Michael….. “Snap!”

    No need for a Rams preservation society…. they will survive in some form in some location – just as they did when they decided they no longer wanted to be in Cleveland or Los Angeles.

    Not so sure about St. Louis taxpayers or public services, however. Maybe Green can start a new campaign to save them after a few elected officials make a decision on whether to give hundreds of millions of a dollars to a guy who is already really, really rich and happens, by pure chance, to also be married to one of the richest women in the world.

    Man, talk about your tough decisions….

  8. The salient point in this article is not about Darlene, who it was pointed out is but one of three votes. It is that every entity necessary to fund the stadium wants a vote now. It is most telling how important it was for that judge to rule no vote was necessary, until the boards and legislators themselves stated Oh yes it is. The legislature says No Funding until an owner commits and either a statewide referendum or a committee of the whole legislature votes. The reason the stadium backers celebrated when the vote was judicially nixed was because they knew they’d lose public funding across the state, across the city, in the Board of Alderman, in the Board of Estimate, for a 2nd St L stadium in 25 years. The backers will most especially lose, by a whopping margin, a statewide vote from taxpayers sick and tired of St Louis coming back at them hat in hand when the first stadium isn’t even paid off yet. All of that is taxpayer debt St Loo wants to keep ratcheting up. NOT GONNA HAPPEN. Darlene is not the canary in the coal mine but the song the canary sings. She is warning everyone every source of funding is in a long debate limbo while the Big Vote in January at the NFL meetings is not waiting for all the other votes necessary to happen, for instance the legislative vote, which no stadium backer wants, or the referendum vote, which would take a year or more before it got crucified by the citizenry. The NFL isn’t waiting on Missouri to get its various voting dollops of sh*t together while Stan’s stadium inexorably rises, present tense, in Inglewood, and the self-imposed deadline of January—2 1/2 months away!—rapidly creeps up.

    Wanna see a viable stadium plan, the one in San Diego should nudge the Chargers to stay put and negotiate it, accoding to those much-vaunted NFL bylaws forcing them to.

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