America’s unending quest to empty public coffers to build new stadiums has taken an insidious turn over the past 20 years:
The hotel tax.
(As if we need more taxes at the bottom of our hotel bill: sales tax, city tax, occupancy tax, resort fee, WiFi fee. New York City even has the $1.50 “Javits tax” — the Javits family thanks you — and now it’s routine everywhere for a hidden stadium tax to pay for a billionaire’s new playpen. Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller are turning over in their cash-lined graves wondering how they missed out on this business gambit.)
San Diego — desperate to keep the Chargers — is being asked by the team to generate $350 million to help build a $1 billion downtown stadium. Where do you find $350 million of public money lying around? You don’t. Rather, San Diego is considering increasing the hotel tax to 16.5 percent, a hilariously gutless, transparent attempt to make somebody else pay for the city’s apparent civic duty of keeping pro football in town.
Alas, I’ve been arguing against publicly funded sports palaces for years — my “No More Stadiums, With or Without Tax Subsidies” campaign has attracted close to $10 on Kickstarter — to no avail.
In America, you can still bet your underwater mortgage payment on three things:
● More Starbucks.
● More guns.
● More stadiums.
The hotel surcharge is a city telling its residents, “We won’t tax you; we’ll tax somebody else.” Besides, it’s really not a tax if nobody you know is paying it.
Let’s stick our tax bill on out-of-towners!
Here’s how the municipal merry-go-round works:
The people of Chicago pay for Atlanta’s new stadium.
The people of Atlanta pay for Houston’s new arena.
The people of Houston pay for Miami’s new baseball field.
The people of Miami pay for all of Minneapolis’s new facilities.
And so on.
Eventually, all of us end up paying, unless you only stay in an Airbnb. It’s similar to a casino raking a dollar out of every pot of a poker game — eventually all the chips go down the hole and all the people literally have nothing left.
The difference is that at the casino, at the end of the day you’re broke but get a couple of cocktails, while with the hotel surcharge, at the end of the day you’re broke but Jerry Jones has a glittery new football home that no one can afford to attend.
Here’s a partial list of cities that have proposed a hotel tax in the past generation to offset stadium/arena costs: Atlanta; Salt Lake City; San Francisco; Dallas, Birmingham, Ala.; Miami; St. Louis; Glendale, Ariz.; San Diego; Las Vegas; Cleveland; Houston; and Minneapolis.
(The only public subsidy of this kind I would ever favor? A tariff to renovate the White House bowling lanes and open them 24 hours to the public. Man, it would be fun to roll a few balls at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., plus there’s a chance your rental shoes might have once been worn by the president!)
I have chronicled this welfare-for-billionaires many times, but FoxSports.com’s Dieter Kurtenbach recently reported a number that flattened me — the American public has spent more than $7 billion over the past 20 years to build or renovate NFL stadiums.
Which means it’s time to fight back.
These hotel taxes are so high of late, I’m returning to the good old days when my parents took whatever they could from our hotel room — pens, notepads, shampoo, soap. As a kid, I thought Ramada Inn was the world’s leading manufacturer of bathroom towels; every towel in our house said “Ramada” on it.
And I’m now proposing a reverse hotel tax: A $5 rebate to the hotel guest every time Housekeeping ignores the “Do Not Disturb” sign in the morning. Heck, we will be rolling in so much dough, we might be able to afford the cashews in the mini-bar.
Q. TV execs are now looking for a combo of Regis Philbin and Michael Strahan. So next stop . . . “Live With Kelly and Norman?” (Lance Seberhagen; Vienna, Va.)
A. Alas, I am more of a combo of Regis Philbin and a fire hydrant.
Q. If not for mock drafts, what would Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay be doing? (Bryan Clarke; Albany, N.Y.)
A. Kiper would own a drywall company. McShay would run a youth leadership camp.
Q. So now that Johnny Manziel has — in no particular order — been cut, is in front of a grand jury for domestic violence, trashed a house in Los Angeles, been dropped by two agents, lost virtually every major endorsement, had a photo taken recently showing off his new “CDXX” (420)-next-to-a-marijuana-leaf tattoo, contributed to the relapse that cost Josh Gordon his chance for reinstatement and parties every day, do you think that takes Ray Farmer out of the running for NFL executive of the year? (Eddie Vidmar; Cleveland)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.
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