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Locke Opposes Using Taxes For Football Stadium Higher Gas Tax For Roadwork More Acceptable Possibility

Gov.-elect Gary Locke on Tuesday said state taxpayers should not be asked to pay for a new Seattle football stadium.

They could, however, be asked to pay a higher gasoline tax for better roads, he said.

On his first visit to Spokane since winning the election, Locke said he opposes using general taxes to subsidize a new Seahawks stadium.

During a press conference at the Ridpath Hotel, Locke tried to steer his comments toward economic development, road-building and welfare reform. But reporters homed in on developments involving Seattle’s professional football team.

Locke said he prefers to renovate the 20-year-old Kingdome, despite calls from potential Seahawks owner Paul Allen for a new open-air football stadium.

On Monday, King County Executive Locke announced he has reached a tentative agreement with Allen on a revised Kingdome lease intended to keep the Seahawks in Seattle.

“I think this agreement demonstrates his (Allen’s) commitment to the people of the Northwest,” Locke said.

A year ago, Microsoft co-founder Allen obtained an option from Seahawks owner Ken Behring to buy the Seahawks after Behring tried to move the team to Southern California.

The renegotiated Kingdome lease reduces rent payments, shortens its life from nine to three years, and adds incentives to keep the Seahawks in Seattle after the lease expires.

Locke said he views the new lease as a partnership between government and the privately owned team.

Unlike Locke, Allen wants a larger open-air stadium in place of the old dome.

Allen has said the team would put up some cash, but the Legislature would be asked to come up with part of the package for a $400 million stadium.

Locke said vanity license plates, a special state Lotto game, luxury box leases and ticket surcharges could be used to provide financing.

He said he opposes the use of general taxes.

The state already is committed to helping finance a new $365 million covered stadium for the Seattle Mariners baseball team. The state’s $94 million contribution is coming from similar sources and a tax credit to King County.

“Nobody is calling for a tax subsidy,” Locke said. “If you don’t like football, you don’t have to buy a vanity license plate.”

Locke came to Spokane to meet with community leaders to learn about issues important to Eastern Washington.

He said he was told to maintain a strong business climate by not letting high state taxes drive business into neighboring states.

“The issues that face us transcend the Cascade Mountains,” he said.

Locke said city streets as well as highways need improvement. He said he already has received some Republican support for a gas tax increase, but he declined to say how much that increase might be.

On welfare reform, Locke said he is working with GOP leaders to protect those who could be hurt by changes in the system. Locke supports using state money to extend benefits to legal immigrants who would no longer be eligible for federal welfare money.

, DataTimes


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