Thursday, September 18, 2008

Subsidizing the Yankees

A House sub-committee is holding hearings today on alleged improprieties in the use of tax-exempt bond financing to pay for the new Yankee Stadium. Not to put too fine a point on it, but highly questionable representations concerning site value seem to have been made in the IRS private letter ruling request, which found the financing eligible for tax-exempt treatment without its being subject to the dollar cap on issuance of private activity bonds.

As an aside, even if the site value claims were true and the ruling remains valid, the plan that the IRS was asked to approve appears to have been a sneaky end-run around the intent of the dollar cap for private activity bonds, possibly undermining important public accountability and transparency goals in the design of the tax subsidy (as suggested in testimony before the sub-committee by my NYU colleague Clayton Gillette).

My own belief is that the Yankees should be punitively taxed, not subsidized. Major league baseball has already taken constructive steps in this direction, but the federal government should get in on the action as well.

And (shedding light perhaps on my mood swings concerning the election?) I will not feel totally sure that at last, for the first time since 1993, there will be baseball playoffs without the Yankees, until they are mathematically eliminated. Until that happens, how sure can one really be?

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