Sonics Bill Moves

Steven Gardner writes:

The bill that would fund the Sonics arena in Renton moved out of the Ways & Means Committee Friday. As some of you have suspected, state Sen. Phil Rockefeller, D-Bainbridge Island, was among those voting to send the matter on. I asked him to respond to some of the complaints leveled here. Here it is:

Steve, the proposal we voted on in Ways and Means today (SSWB 5986) eliminates the use of a state sales tax credit as a financing mechanism for the construction of the events center which may become the eventual location of the Sonics. In the Committee meeting I spoke to that fundamental shift in the approach taken by the proponents of the bill, which protects state taxpayers from subsidizing the construction of the facility. I think the reason they made the shift was because they realized that the use of state tax dollars in this manner is not acceptable to the vast majority of taxpayers around the State, or to most legislators, as became abundantly clear during the prior consideration of the ISC track proposal. So, it seems to me that the Sonics’ proponents decided not to make the same mistake.

I haven’t read the Sonics bill, but the Seattle P-I’s “Strange Bedfellows” blog provides the major details of the funding mechanism.

In reading an earlier explanation of the bill, it looks to me that a sales tax credit was part of the funding for the arena, but now it would only be used as coverage for the bonds. The revenue that would pay for construction would come from extensions on car rental and hotel/motel taxes.

Now, perhaps I’ve missed something, but that’s how it reads to me.

There are varying opinions on the bill’s ultimate chances, but getting out of Ways & Means might be a surprise. It goes to Rules now. In theory it could die there, but more than likely it will get sent to the floor.

10 thoughts on “Sonics Bill Moves

  1. The substitute bill (5986) hasn’t been posted as of the time I’m writing this, so I’m relying on the “Strange Bedfellows” information that Steven linked to.

    The state sales tax credits, not one but two of them, would be spent in King County:


    .016 Sales Tax Credit

    This is currently being used to pay Qwest Field bonds. Beginning in 2021, this portion would be dedicated for arts and cultural purposes.

    Would raise $77 million.


    .017% Sales Tax Credit

    This is currently being used to pay for Safeco Field bonds. Beginning in 2012, this would be sued for other public facilities and youth ball fields in King County and as coverage for the new regional center bonds.

    Would raise $150 million.

    Well, I feel much better now. The state revenue that should have been spent on providing adequate funding for a uniform system of schools for all children in this state will instead be spent in King County for “the arts,” “culture,” and playfields for “the children.”

    Thank you, Sen. Rockefeller. You took that money away from everyone else in the state. But, you did throw us a crumb — the “simple majority” amendment for local levies to pay the cost of schools which you swore an oath to pay with state funding. Have a good day, sir.

  2. The Stranger’s blog had a good piece about this today.

    “Sen. Tom said he doesn’t think the bill will pass the full Senate because everyone knows it’s not going to pass the House. (Speaker Chopp says he won’t give the bill the time of day.)”


  3. Befor I blast politicians for anything, I simply ask for consistency. It’s nice to see not much as changed – Sen Rockefeller is a typical, hypocritical politician. This PROVES the ISC issue was cultural.

  4. I spoke last night with a political friend of mine who has been lobbying for the Sonics/Storm here at the YD convention.

    I had beers with the State Party Chairman and Vice chair last night.

    Basically there is a lot of behind the scene action going on in the Senate Ways and Means committee, just because it’s moving to the floor does not mean it’s going to pass either chamber, an the Sonics legislation is apples and oranges compared to the welfare check for the ISC. Still if I were in the Senate I would have voted No on both.

    Steve I’ll tell my friend Troy to give you and email and explain his involvement with the Sonics. He said that the Sonics folk were upset at the entire NASCAR debate taking the spotlight and time away from them. (Typical King County polticos thinking they are the only ones in the state)

    There is a lot of behind the scenes politics but that is politics.

  5. Sen. Rockefella supports a tax subsidised sports stadium in King County while railing against on in his community. Where are the concessions he demanded of ISC in the SOnics bill? How can he work against Bremerton and for Renton?

  6. Jacob,

    Do you actually think that the Sonics package is better than the ISC deal?

    They aren’t doing a performance contract either.

    Sonics are paying WAY less than half of construction and are extending the tax increase from when the other stadiums are built.

  7. The text of Substitute Senate Bill 5986 (for the Sonics’ new arena and a lot more) is finally posted on the legislature’s web site.

    I’ve only read through it quickly, but it appears the state sales tax credit for .017 percent sales tax collected within King County is available to pay for construction of the new arena for the Sonics. See Section 301(3)(c)(i) and Section 300.

    It doesn’t seem to be described in the Senate Bill Report from Ways and Means as though this state funding would be used for the “regional center” (Sonics’ arena) — unless dedicating the sales tax credit to “public facilities” is a vague way of saying it can be used to pay for the new Sonics’ arena.

    I also noticed that it appears the other state funding — a sales tax credit for .016 percent King County sales tax — could be used to renovate anything in King County like the Key Arena.

    If this thing gets through the legislature, all of us will be paying a part of the cost for King County and its Key Arena, arts, etc., and for the new Sonics’ arena via those state sales tax credits. State revenue that would have been spent on schools and other ordinary state programs will instead stay in King County for their entertainment — meaning that the rest of us pick up the slack when they don’t pay into the state general fund but instead keep the money for fun.

    Sweet, huh?

  8. Honestly I’ve always opposed using state money for corporate welfare for rich sports team owners. I look up to Chris Van Dyk and appreciate all the hard work that People for More Important Things have done for the people of Washington state. If King County wants to waste half a billion on a Sonics arena in Renton then they should do it with their own county taxes not out of the state government general fund. However we are going to pay for the 512 floating bridge replacement and either a viaduct rebuild or a surface transit option. Enough of Kitsap’s taxes are spent King County.

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