After talking to state legislators and City-County Council members this week, I’m convinced one of the mechanisms to raise revenue for this shortfall is going to be a ticket tax hike. People buying tickets to sports and entertainment events at Conseco Fieldhouse, Lucas Oil Stadium and Victory Field are already getting dinged with a 6 percent tax. It soon could be 7 percent or 8 percent, maybe even 9 percent. For every 1 percent the ticket tax is raised, that would bring in between $600,000 and $800,000 annually from Pacers, Colts and Indians games. Other ticketed events in those venues would add to the till. Still, a ticket tax is only part of the answer to making up the shortfall, but as far as I can tell, it’s the most popular part. So, despite all the teams’ efforts not to raise ticket prices, those prices will be increasing.
“Of all the potential funding sources, the ticket tax makes the most sense to me,” said City-County Councilwoman Joanne Sanders, Democrat minority leader. “I think true users of the facility should have to pay. The direct use is an important thing to look at.”
The ticket tax is very popular with elected officials because they don't have to pay for their tickets. Either the CIB or a lobbyist gives them free tickets to the events. They are often invited to suites where they can eat and drink all they like for free. A ticket tax, however, doesn't come close to funding the $50 million budget gap the CIB is trying to close. The CIB claims it saved $6 million through budget cuts and the ticket tax would add no more than about $2 million-$3 million.
CCC President Robert Cockrum is as clueless as always. He's all for the ticket tax, and he wants to impose a new local income tax on people who work in Marion County but live outside it. "Cockrum said one potential source is a one-quarter of 1 percent income tax on people who work in Marion County, but live in other counties," Schoettle writes. And Sen. Luke Kenley is open to any possibility. "When asked about possible funding sources for the CIB’s budgetary shortfall, Kenley responded, 'Anything is possible," Schoettle says. I guess the food and beverage tax the neighboring counties are paying to support our sports facilities isn't enough.
As usual, none of the politicians want to make the Simons or Irsays pick up the tab for the palaces built for them on the backs of taxpayers. The two families have showered politicians with several million dollars in campaign contributions over the past decade. That's all it takes to make these politicians put the interests of the billionaire sports team owners ahead of the public interest. Had enough? Didn't I hear those words once before?
UPDATE: Note that Field of Schemes is reporting that an amendment by Sen. Tom Coburn to Obama's $787 billion stimulus bill that would have prevented any of the money from being spent on sports stadiums was stripped from the final bill. I wouldn't be surprised at all if Mayor Ballard and the CIB don't try to get federal stimulus dollars diverted to shore up the funding gap so the billionaire Simons and Irsay don't have to pay a dime.