Senate OKs bill dedicating much of athlete tax to stadiums

Thursday, April 7, 2005

The Senate passed legislation Wednesday that would dedicate millions of dollars for professional sports facilities around the state.

The legislation, which was sent to the House on a 21-11 vote, changes the way the state's tax on out-of-state athletes and entertainers is distributed.

Southeast Missouri's three state senators were divided on the the bill.

Sens. Jason Crowell of Cape Girardeau and Rob Mayer of Dexter voted against it, while Sen. Kevin Engler of Farmington voted in favor.

Currently, 60 percent of that money is supposed to go to the Missouri Arts Council trust fund, and 10 percent each to the public libraries networking fund, public television broadcasting fund, humanities council and historic preservation.

However, the current plan is subject to appropriation, and in recent years, the various groups have not received the state funding they expected. For the coming year, Gov. Matt Blunt has proposed to spend about $4.5 million of the estimated $24 million from the tax on the various cultural programs. The rest would go to the state's general revenues.

Under the legislation by Sen. Charlie Shields, R-St. Joseph, 60 percent of an estimated $30 million in the 2007 fiscal year would go to sports facilities, including to pay off the dome where the St. Louis Rams play and improve the stadiums for the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals. Sports authorities and other entities would get a share proportional to what they collect when athletes or entertainers visit their area.

However, the Senate amended the bill so that no money could go to stadiums for the St. Louis Cardinals or Blues. St. Louis city still would get its share of the money and use it for other purposes, such as surrounding infrastructure or tourism.

'Politically unpopular'

Sen. John Griesheimer, R-Washington, moved to cut out the Cardinals and Blues, saying "it's politically unpopular, publicly unpopular also" to fund their stadiums.

Some Democrats complained that spending so much money on private sports buildings is wrong when the state is proposing to remove tens of thousands of people from the Medicaid health care program.

"I do not think it is responsible to sit here and work on funding more professional sports facilities when we are not adequately funding the functions of government," said Sen. Tim Green, D-St. Louis. "It is not the right timing when we're talking about cuts throughout our state government."

The plan also would dedicate 24 percent of the money to the arts council. Four percent each would go to public libraries, public television, the humanities council and smaller sports authorities and convention bureaus promoting sports around the state. That final share of the money was adopted during Senate debate and replaces the historic preservation funding piece.

The Cape Girardeau Convention and Visitors Bureau would be eligible for a small portion of the funds for sports marketing purposes.

The new funding plan would be phased in over three years, starting in 2007.

Staff writer Marc Powers contributed to this report.

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