That provision in the U.S. house tax bill to bar use of federally tax-exempt bonds for pro sports facilities is already starting to freak out proponents of the Oakland Raiders‘ planned $1.9 million stadium in Las Vegas, which is set to use $750 million in public bonding:
“We stress-tested the model for things like higher interest rates,” [Nevada economic analyst Jeremy] Aguero said. “We understand the potential that comes with either legislative risk, or interest-rate risk or development risk, for that matter. I wish I could tell you it’s going to cost X amount of dollars in order to make it work but we need to go through the exercise of making sure we understand all the components of that legislation because that’s not the only one that will affect municipal finance.”
Okay, sure, figuring out how exactly this bill’s passage would affect the Raiders stadium costs is complicated. Figuring out roughly how much it would affect it, though, is dirt easy: Tax-free bonds typically allow an interest rate 1-1.5% below taxable bonds. So adding that much to the financing costs on the state’s $750 million would mean an extra $7.5-11.25 million a year, which over 30 years, converted into present value … I get between $115 million and $173 million worth of added interest costs.
So that’s a hefty chunk of change, and the big question would be who would pay it: The state or Raiders owner Mark Davis? That all depends on what it says in the team’s stadium lease — and in all likelihood it just says “we’ll use tax-exempt bonds,” meaning the whole thing would need to be renegotiated to settle who’d be on the hook for the extra cash. That would certainly be interesting.
(Note: It’s also important to remember, as I almost didn’t while writing this headline, that this would not be an increased cost of the stadium — it would just be shifting $115 million to $173 million worth of costs from the federal treasury, which would have been subsidizing it with tax exemptions, back to the state. It would make a hidden subsidy less hidden, in other words, but somebody’s paying those costs regardless.)