No doubt Sonics officials and Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels’ office are feverishly attempting to work out a deal on renovating Key Arena before Initiative 91 passes in a landslide this November. Yesterday, sponsors dropped off over 20,000 signatures for I-91, which would prohibit public subsidies of sports arenas, and a recent poll showed overwhelming support. This puts a pretty big kink in the Sonics’ demand that taxpayers fork over $200 million to keep the team in Seattle.
Ah well, that’s what Sonics management gets for arrogantly overplaying its hand.
Personally, I could care less whether the Sonics stay or leave, but I’ve got nothing against loyal fans who want to keep the team in Seattle if a reasonable deal can be achieved. In that spirit I proposed a somewhat tongue-in-cheek financing scheme a little while back… a Latte Tax that would place the tax burden squarely on the shoulders of those who would benefit most from a $200 million public subsidy: Sonics majority owner and Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz.
Yes, what better way to finance a new arena whose primary purpose is to make a very rich man even richer, than to tax the business that made him so awfully damn rich in the first place? And what could be more delicious than a Marble Mocha Macchiato, than the spectacle of Schultz’s Sonics spending millions of Schultz’s dollars to convince voters to levy a tax on Schultz’s ubiquitous Starbucks?
Not surprisingly, my Latte Tax proposal didn’t get much traction with either local politicians or team officials.
But should the Mayor and the team work out a reasonable deal in which the Sonics pay their fair share, I do have another tax proposal that I hope our state and local elected officials seriously consider: a Jock Tax.
Currently, twenty other states already levy a tax on the income visiting players earn during their “duty days” within the state. Our Sonics players already pay this tax on most of their away games, so it’s only fair that visiting players pay a similar tax when they play games here.
It is also only fair to devote these revenues towards paying for public arenas and stadiums, considering that rapidly escalating player salaries is the primary economic motive behind the demand for ever greater public subsidy. If taxpayers are going to be asked to pay for a new arena, lets make sure the burden falls on those who will benefit most from the tax.
Now I know what some of you are thinking: the Washington State Supreme Court has already ruled a state income tax unconstitutional. But that’s all the more reason to pass a Jock Tax now.
Many constitutional scholars and tax experts, including such notables as William Gates Sr. and UW law professor Hugh Spitzer, believe that the court’s antiquated 1933 decision likely would not hold up today… and what better way to test this precedent than with a relatively inconsequential tax like this?
Thus a Jock Tax is a win-win proposal — it is a fair and reasonable tax that targets those who benefit most from the policy, while bringing new tax revenues into the state. And as a bonus, it finally puts to rest a constitutional red herring that has clouded our tax structure debate for decades.
Under a reasonable deal, the Sonics owners would be asked to pay their fair share towards a new arena, and with a Jock Tax in place, so would the league’s players. As for the public, well, if you ask me, outrageously high ticket and concession prices are already burden enough for even the most diehard fan.