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The Athletics’ Las Vegas Dreams Are At Least Temporarily On Hold

A rainbow over a mostly empty Oakland Coliseum.
Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images

Nevada lawmakers declined Monday night to put off their summer break long enough to pass the stadium financing bill that would provide public funding for the relocation of the Athletics baseball franchise from Oakland to Las Vegas. Where this matter has recently seemed effectively closed, it now appears to be back up in the air.

SB509 is the bill in the Nevada Assembly that, if passed, would provide the public financing sought by owner John Fisher to facilitate the final stage of his years-long project of running off with the Athletics. The bill (embedded below) becoming law would set in motion a series of transactions. First, it would prompt the Board of County Commissioners of Clark County to issue municipal bonds for the funding of a Major League Baseball stadium project. Second, it would require the State Treasurer to provide a credit enhancement on those bonds—a "guarantee, insurance, letter of credit or other financial instrument or structure," but also possibly just financial backing from the State Infrastructure Bank—to improve the bonds' credit risk profile and maximize their value to potential bond investors. Relatedly, it would also require the State Treasurer to sock public money into a dedicated fund for securing the state's credit enhancement obligations. Third, it would prompt the Department of Taxation to issue transferable tax credits worth "up to an aggregate maximum amount equal to the difference between $380 million and the amount of the bonds issued by the County," capped at $180 million. And fourth, it would require the Board of County Commissioners to establish a special tax entertainment district around the new ballpark, for the purpose of collecting sales and payroll taxes related to the windfall of Athletics baseball and using them to repay the public with the public's own money.

The number to grab onto there is $380 million, shifted away from infrastructure and public spending and into the subsidization of a billionaire's hijacking of an MLB team. This would be approximately half of what fellow broke-dick failson billionaire Mark Davis took off of Nevada taxpayers for the construction of a football-only stadium for his Raiders, on the far side of the freeway, in what is to date the most public money ever secured in a North American stadium financing deal. Certain Nevada lawmakers are horny for the Athletics deal, but even at the relatively lower price point and even with the team's chief lobbyist swearing up and down that this time stadium financing will be a good expenditure of public funds, economists are unanimous that this is, in fact, just another losing deal for taxpayers. J.C. Bradbury, a stadium financing researcher and author of The Baseball Economist, told The Nevada Independent that he's heard all this same shit before. "People will always say, 'Oh, but this one is different.' Every single stadium deal I've ever looked at, the people who are supporting this say, 'This one will be different.' And when we look at it 15 to 20 years later, it's exactly the same as they always are."

Public opinion appears to be swinging away from this bill. A poll run by the Independent and Noble Predictive Insights from May showed that just 41 percent of Nevadans support the use of taxpayer funds to help relocate the Athletics to Las Vegas. The opinions submitted on SB509 on the state Assembly's website are resoundingly negative: 71 percent of submissions, or approximately 2,300 of 3,200 respondents, have expressed opposition to the bill. It's not clear whether an outpouring of public criticism influenced the Assembly's choice to abandon the bill until the end of summer. Governor Joe Lombardo indicated that he will issue a proclamation calling for a special legislative session to work on unresolved spending matters, but in a twist that I am just going to go ahead and hope caused John Fisher to evacuate his bowels into the seat of his trousers, the speaker of the Nevada Assembly said Monday night that the special session would not take up the abandoned SB509, but would confine itself to capital improvement projects and teacher salaries.

This bill is suddenly on the ropes. Unfortunately, even if SB509 crashes and burns, that will not necessarily close the books on Fisher's hopes of scoring some sweet public financing to move his bullcrap baseball operation to Las Vegas. Lawmakers at every level have a neat trick for getting around pesky public opposition to nauseating misuses of public funds: They will very often simply ignore it. But Nevada lawmakers had a chance this session to consummate their courtship of a new billionaire neighbor, and declined, and that's not nothing. And the rest of us can delight in anything that makes Fisher squirm and takes some of the sunshine out of his summer.

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