October 14, 1995 in Nation/World

Lawmakers In Ballpark On Mariners House Sends $289 Million Stadium Financing Package To Senate

From Staff And Wire Reports
 

The state House late Friday passed and sent to the Senate a $289 million package to help build a ballpark for the Seattle Mariners.

The Senate, which earlier rejected another version of the stadium bill on a key test vote, was expected to pass the House version today, the third day of an emergency session of the Legislature.

Negotiations between the House and Senate broke off abruptly late Friday night, as senators turned up their noses at a ballpark plan and adjourned, leaving House members standing at the plate.

“They thought they’d finish this afternoon. So they missed their nap. Now, it’s passed their bedtime,” cracked Rep. Todd Mielke, R-Spokane, chairman of the House Republican Caucus.

Senate Majority Leader Marcus Gaspard, D-Puyallup, ordered senators back to the Capitol this morning.

The team’s owners have vowed to put the M’s up for sale Oct. 30 if a financing plan for a new stadium isn’t guaranteed.

By a 62-29 vote, the House sent to the upper chamber a bill that includes details Senate Republicans want.

House Speaker Clyde Ballard, R-East Wenatchee, said he was delighted by the strong bipartisan support and predicted Senate passage today.

The proposal was mixture of King County tax increases, a state sports lottery and tax credits, and cash from the Mariners. It was a skinnier version of a plan the Senate rejected earlier Friday in a key test vote.

The plan eliminated use of $20 million from the state budget surplus, but authorized diversion of $59 million in state sales taxes that are attributed to the Mariners. Lawmakers figured the amount of sales tax credited roughly equals revenue generated by the Mariners.

“It’s the money that we’d lose if the team left, so it’s a wash,” Mielke said.

The Mariners, in Cleveland for Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, would kick in $45 million, bringing the total raised for a new ballpark to $334 million.

Both proposals under discussion Friday ditched any discussion of taking money out of the general fund or the state’s reserves to pay for the stadium, as the original version of the plan required.

“People are saying, ‘We didn’t come here to raise taxes, and it’s true, there’s no one in the Republican caucus who wants to,” said House Majority Leader Dale Foreman, R-Wenatchee.

“But this is essentially money that would be gone if they leave anyway. That’s the rationalization.”

The state would also start up to four new lottery games with a sports theme to raise money for the stadium.

To raise its share of the stadium bill, King County would be given permission by the Legislature to raise taxes.

Both houses will still have to approve final versions of the bill.

The big sticking point is King County.

Many lawmakers, particularly east of the mountains, are loathe to include money in the package to help pay off $70 million in repairs to the Kingdome roof, or make improvements to the Kingdome for the Seahawks.

“We’re here to save the Mariners, not build luxury skyboxes for the Seahawks,” Mielke said.

King County officials were irate to see their wishes ignored, particularly when the original version of the bill gave them what they wanted.

“It makes you wonder who’s in charge in Olympia,” said King County Councilman Pete von Reichbauer. “You have a plan offered by all four legislative leaders and the governor and it’s turned upsidedown.

“It speaks to the problems in Olympia today where you have a governor hampered by political problems and legislators unsure of themselves and their footing.”

Senators included a provision in their bill that would have allowed any surplus funds generated under the proposal to be spent on the Kingdome, but it crashed and burned on a 28-16 vote.

House members never would have gone along with it even if it had passed.

Many members were convinced an agreement will still be reached despite the legislative wreckage.

Throughout the night, Game 3 blasted on TVs in every office and even on the Senate floor at every moment the Senate was out of session. When Jay Buhner’s three-run homer in the 11th inning put the Mariners up two games to one, the House erupted in bedlam.

“There isn’t a legislator here that doesn’t want to try to keep the Mariners,” Mielke said.

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Stadium package Details of the Legislature’s new plan to build a ballpark for the Seattle Mariners: Total financing. $334 million, including $182 million from King County taxpayers, $107 million in state revenue and $45 million from the Mariners. State. A sports-theme lottery game would raise about $48 million over the next 20 years. A sales tax credit for the project would cost the treasury about $59 million. No general taxes are raised. County. A sales tax surcharge, at a level to be negotiated by the House and Senate, on food and beverages sold at restaurants and taverns in the county would raise about $9 million a year. A car-rental tax surcharge of 2 percent would bring in $3.4 million per year. Beginning in 1999, a 5 percent admissions tax at the new ballpark would bring in about $2.6 million a year. Team. Owners of the club would kick in $45 million in cash. Seahawks. Plan includes nothing for the Kingdome repairs and renovations. Maybe next year, leaders say.

This sidebar appeared with the story: Stadium package Details of the Legislature’s new plan to build a ballpark for the Seattle Mariners: Total financing. $334 million, including $182 million from King County taxpayers, $107 million in state revenue and $45 million from the Mariners. State. A sports-theme lottery game would raise about $48 million over the next 20 years. A sales tax credit for the project would cost the treasury about $59 million. No general taxes are raised. County. A sales tax surcharge, at a level to be negotiated by the House and Senate, on food and beverages sold at restaurants and taverns in the county would raise about $9 million a year. A car-rental tax surcharge of 2 percent would bring in $3.4 million per year. Beginning in 1999, a 5 percent admissions tax at the new ballpark would bring in about $2.6 million a year. Team. Owners of the club would kick in $45 million in cash. Seahawks. Plan includes nothing for the Kingdome repairs and renovations. Maybe next year, leaders say.

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