Atlanta picks car-rental taxes as way to raise $142.5m to give Hawks for arena renovations

Back last November when Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed announced plans for the city to pay $142.5 million toward renovations of the Hawks‘ arena, and the city council promised to take up the proposal promptly, it looked like the deal was going to sail through. Except that it turned out nobody had quite figured out where the actual public money was going to come from, something that didn’t get worked out until yesterday, when Atlanta and neighboring College Park agreed to throw a bunch of airport rental-car taxes at the problem:

The $192 million renovation will be paid for, in large part, with an extension of a tax on rental cars.

With the rental car lots sitting within the College Park city limits, College Park has long-shared the tax profits with the city of Atlanta.

After months of negotiations, both cities have agreed to continue doing that for years to come giving Atlanta the money it needs to pay for the renovation.

So, basically, Atlanta and College Park have been collecting taxes on car rentals at the airport and using them for … something (WSB-TV didn’t find this detail worthy of reporting on), and now instead of either continuing to use the money for that something, or using the money for something else, or just cutting taxes on airport car rentals so visitors don’t have to schlep around the city looking for better rates, they’ll start giving the money to the Hawks instead. Which enables the cities to call this “no new taxes,” even though an extension of an old tax really is functionally the same as a new tax, and I don’t really have to explain this to you, do I?

Anyway, $142.5 million in public money being transferred to the Hawks’ owners, check. As I noted last fall, it’s hardly the worst sports subsidy deal in Atlanta’s history, but that’s not saying much.

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4 comments on “Atlanta picks car-rental taxes as way to raise $142.5m to give Hawks for arena renovations

  1. Why don’t the so-called “fiscal conservatives” ever talk about this stuff? I remember a lawsuit a few years back from car rental agencies – I believe in the Arizona area – over this issue.

  2. As someone who travels a lot for business you really notice how much the rental taxes vary around the country, and it does at times impact what airports I fly into and how I structure my trips.

    If I have work in NH I would normally fly into Logan and rent a car, but when the car is a couple hundred more (not all taxes obviously) than flying into NH direct and renting a car, it make doing that a lot more attractive.

  3. Another way I use sometimes is Fly in to airport, use shuttle van to get to hotel outside of county or city, Then get car rental company or hotel van to to car rental.

    My travel is for leisure, sometimes I will attend a game, but that comes out of my leisure $$$ not additional to it. So if I was going to spend $500 on vacation, I not going over because I went to a game.

  4. Atlanta’s heavy rail system picks up right next to domestic baggage claim and goes straight downtown. The car rental taxes downtown are much lower than they are at the airport. If you’re staying in a hotel downtown, it’s probably easier and faster anyway though the car rental offices aren’t open 24 hours like they are at the airport.

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