City Paper is not for tourists
The Washington Nationals, one of the District’s biggest corporate welfare recipients, sure are one greedy ballclub. WTOP’s Mark Segraves had the scoop yesterday that the Nats want the city to pick up the tab for Metro when games run late and the club’s fans want to get home using public transportation.
Segraves reports that other pro teams, including the Capitals, Wizards, and Redskins, pay for late Metro use. The city used to pay for Metro to run after late Nats games in past years, but the Post is reporting that city officials are disinclined to cover the $30,000-an-hour Metro costs for baseball now. The team, by the way, is having a great season and looks to be playoff-bound, as they’ve got the best record in the major leagues and it’s late August already.
Let’s take a moment to consider how insanely greedy the request that taxpayers foot the Metro bill is. This request is coming from a business that wouldn’t even have a stadium to play in were it not for the forced generosity of the District’s corporate taxpayers. To finance the Nats’ stadium, the city had to take out more than $500 million in bonds. To pay for those bonds, the city instituted a gross-receipts tax (an insanely unfair type of tax) on businesses making more than $5 million a year. (That’s not profit, that’s just total receipts. So a business that makes $5 million in revenues but only $1,000 in profit pays the tax, while a company that made $4 million in revenues with $3.9 million in profit would not.)
The city then takes a cut of the utility taxes paid by every non-residential taxpayer (including the same businesses that have ponied up the gross-receipts tax) and puts that toward paying off the bonds. And then the city collects rent from the Nats and has a special sales tax for stadium-related purchases (tickets, merchandise, etc.). LL is awaiting the most recent data, but in past years the tax on businesses and utilities—i.e. businesses with nothing to do with baseball—have ponied up the lion’s share of money to pay the stadium bond, while the club’s rent has paid a fraction of the overall cost. A 2008 projection from the CFO’s office had the gross-receipts and utility taxes bringing in more than $30 million to pay for the bond in 2012, while the Nationals only pay $5 million to lease the stadium.
It’s also worth noting that the interest on the bonds will take the total cost of the stadium close to the $1 billion mark, almost none of which will be paid by the ballclub. In 2012, the city paid $31 million toward the ballpark bond, $27 million of which went toward interest payments. The city is projected to pay $446 million in interest on the bonds over 30 years, but Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans said recently that the city’s on pace to pay off the bonds after only 17 years, which would reduce the amount of interest paid somewhat (the interest payments are frontloaded, much like your mortgage.)
A representative for the Nats did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Update: Here’s the breakdown of the revenues collected to pay for the ballpark, courtesy of the CFO’s office. In the last seven years, revenues from the gross-receipts tax on businesses and utility taxes (i.e. those things unrelated to baseball) come out to nearly $250 million, while the baseball-related sales tax and rent paid at the stadium comes to $82.5 million.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery