The Libertarian Plan to Save the Capital Improvement Board
Without Overtaxing the Citizens of Indianapolis
Presented by the Libertarian Party of Marion County
Historically, city and state leaders have decided that corporate welfare is the highest priority for Indianapolis. Professional football received special treatment from the city in 2005, in the form of huge monetary commitments being made to the Indianapolis Colts for a new stadium. This came on the heels of a similar project undertaken for the Indiana Pacers sports franchise.
Elected Libertarians never would have agreed to this taxpayer funded corporate welfare for wealthy sports franchises and their owners. Libertarians would also have opposed financing a new stadium before the old one was even paid off and would have demanded honoring the previous promise of eliminating the 1% food and beverage tax when the stadium was paid off. We recognize that Lucas Oil Stadium has already been built, debts have been taken on, and the Indianapolis Capital Improvement Board (CIB) is now contractually obligated to bear a majority of the operating costs for the stadium that houses the Indianapolis Colts a handful of days each year.
Since high-jacking the taxing power of municipalities has become de rigueur in professional sports, it might be unfair to criticize the Colts organization, or their owner Jim Irsay, for expecting the City of Indianapolis to make good on the inappropriate promises it has made. At the same time, however, it is an unreasonable and inappropriate use of government power to expect citizens who either cannot afford to attend events at the stadiums or who have other financial priorities to subsidize the activities of the wealthy. Since it has already been determined that stadiums are the highest priority of Indianapolis, even in light of sewer, road, government pension and other needs, and since it is clear that Indianapolis has been burdened enough by high taxes, the Libertarian Party offers the following plan to address the shortfall the CIB is currently facing.
1. No bailout for the Pacers. We take the Pacers at their word, and accept their recent statement that they never asked for $15 million in operating costs for Conseco Fieldhouse. Therefore the previously expected Pacers portion of this $47 million shortfall is eliminated.
2. Raise ticket fees on all events at all CIB-owned stadiums. Recently, Colts owner Jim Irsay stated that if the City were to raise the ticket fees from 6% to 10%, the total revenues over the remaining term of their lease agreement would total $1.3 billion. This equates to about $44 million a year, which is plenty to handle the rest of the shortfall and ensures that those who cannot afford to visit the stadium are not burdened with paying for the shortfall. However, to ensure to the taxpayers a chance to re-evaluate the financial needs of the CIB, this fee increase should be set to sunset after five (5) years.
3. Allow a new casino to be built in Indianapolis. Assuming that the increased ticket fees may reduce attendance at events, we are open to the idea of welcoming a new casino or other gambling activities to Indianapolis. This extra money should be used for:
a. shoring up CIB finances,
b. paying down all existing debts in an effort to lighten the tax burden of Indianapolis residents,
c. making actual capital improvements to existing assets, such as roads and sewers, in areas that have been neglected by the City (e.g. cultural districts such as Fountain Square).
It is important again to stress that Libertarians oppose taxation to transfer subsidy or benefits to corporations or other private interests. Libertarians opposed these projects and would not have put the City in this situation. Now, the damage is done and the options now before us may seem undesirable. Businesses should be expected to operate on their own, free from government intrusion or subsidy. Sports franchises are no different than any other private interest that employs people, maintains offices or other facilities and draws commerce to a city. There is no reason the City should be subsidizing the business interests of millionaires.
It is also important the City-County Council ensures that this will never happen again. The Council must immediately pass ordinances prohibiting the public financing of any structure if it is to be used primarily for private business uses. This includes restricting the use of property tax abatements. Additionally, it may be worth considering a restriction requiring any lease agreements or contracts that the city enters into be limited to terms of 4 years, so the city may renegotiate such agreements after every major election cycle.