Mesa officials insist a Cactus League ticket tax to help pay for a new Chicago Cubs ballpark is still alive at the Arizona Legislature.
An official familiar with the Cubs stadium financing plan said Major League Baseball and Commissioner Bud Selig are trying to trying to put the brakes on the bill at the Legislature. The official, who asked not to be identified, said MLB wants Mesa, the Cubs and other teams to look at funding options beyond a tax on all Arizona spring training games. Other Cactus League teams, including the Arizona Diamondbacks, object to a ticket tax being used for the Cubs stadium.
MLB has been talking to Arizona lawmakers and others about setting up special tax districts to help finance stadiums. MLB officials did not respond to requests for comment. But the unnamed official said the league was asking the Cubs and Mesa to extend their timetables for a new stadium, and for various sides to take the summer and fall to find a new plan for the 2011 session.
The Cubs want a new a stadium by 2013 and have threatened to move to Florida without one. MLB also is telling the Cubs to back down from that threat, according to the official.
The bill with the Cubs ticket tax has been stripped down and passed by the Arizona House of Representatives without a $1 car rental fee in Maricopa County. And, while the ticket charge is part of the approved measure, it did not include a specific amount for the charge. Previous plans included an 8 percent charge on all Cactus League tickets to help pay for an $84 million new stadium for the Cubs.
Mesa government relations director Scott Butler said the ticket plan and the bill are not dead, and the city is trying to work out a plan that can pass this legislative session.
"The version of (House Bill) 2736 that passed out of the House yesterday was intentionally stripped down as a show of good faith to all of the stakeholders. By and large, most members of the Legislature want to see the Cubs remain in Mesa and provide an ongoing revenue source for other Cactus League facilities. The only question has been what is the appropriate mixture of revenue sources to make this happen," Butler said.
"I’m still 110% confident that we could push a surcharge-only bill through the Senate and to the governor, but we don’t want to fight the 14 other teams and MLB at each step of the process no teletrack payday loans. The Senate will give all parties the opportunity to renew discussions and find a revenue mixture that most can support. The alternative is that the Cubs leave Arizona and the $130-plus-million annual economic impact is relocated to Naples (Fla.)," Butler said.
House Speaker Kirk Adams, R-Mesa, and Majority Leader John McComish, R-Ahwatukee, are the main proponents of the ticket tax, along with Mesa Mayor Scott Smith. They argue that the ticket tax revenue will go to other projects besides the Cubs stadium and that before the House vote, the bill included language to use some of the money to help Pima County with stadium debt.
Thus far, the trio has opposed other funding ideas including some proposed by lobbyist John Kaites, who represents the Chicago White Sox. Kaites has talked about taxes on restaurants, satellite television communications as well as special tax districts. Butler and Mesa lobbyist John MacDonald contend those ideas either won’t raise enough revenue or lack political support.
MLB has talked about special property tax districts around the proposed stadium to capture revenue for various teams, not just the Cubs.
Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon supports similar sales tax districts that could be used in downtown Phoenix. Arizona Rep. Jerry Weiers, R-Glendale, proposed a special tax district bill that could have been used to help the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobing.com Arena, as well as US Airways Center in downtown Phoenix, but that bill has gone nowhere.
The D-backs back a countywide public vote on a sales tax increase to pay for the Cubs ballpark. Mesa officials point out a similar vote was not held to get a sales tax increase to pay for Chase Field in Phoenix.
McComish previously said he was open to other ideas, but he has not supported other options. The lawmaker did not respond to a request for comment.
The Cubs’ financing battle comes in the wake of funding shortfalls for the Arizona Sports and Tourism Authority, which previously funded Cactus League stadiums via hotel and car rental taxes. But the recession has hurt tourism and resulted in a $10 million shortfall for AZSTA, forcing alternative plans for the Cubs.