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Local Legislators on Panthers Funding


During Tuesday night’s meeting of the Mecklenburg County Young Republicans, I was able to ask Senator Jeff Tarte and Representative Bill Brawley whether they would vote to allow Charlotte to raise taxes in order to fund the private, for profit, enterprise known as the Carolina Panthers.

From Republicans, I would have hoped for and expected a simple, “Absolutely not! Next question please!”, but dealing with politicians is never so easy.

I personally like these guys, and I’m excited at some of the possibilities GOP super-majorities allow (elimination of income tax, for example), but as I’ve written before, why some Republicans get caught up in the failed premise of “public/private partnerships” is foreign to me.  It’s really a lose/lose situation.

Instead of the “no” I was looking for, Senator Tarte explained that a “yes or no” wasn’t so easy.  “It’s actually more complicated than that”, he insisted.

He went on to say we, “can’t be shortsighted and [need to] recognize the economic engine that is [the Panthers].”

Other catchphrases like the need to “be pragmatic” and that “certain businesses have enough impact [to warrant discussion]”  found their way into the the ultimate reality that he is “willing to sit at the table” with the Panthers to discuss the possibility of funding.

From Representative Brawley we got a different tone, of sorts.  While seemingly still willing to allow tax money to be given to the Panthers, he did offer a couple of suggestions as to what the source of that money could be…as opposed to a new tax increase.  For example, giving the Panthers their previously paid property tax back and exempting them from future payments.

In both cases, I would hope that these legislators would re-examine their positions.  Both of the visions presented, though conflicting, still ultimately had tax revenue used to subsidize the activities of one particular business. At some point, such “cooperation” needs to end.

If the assumption that sports franchises did benefit the economy was accepted (and I don’t accept the premise based on nearly 30 studies I have read) then clearly other large private businesses in Charlotte also contribute to our economic well-being.  If Bank of America came to the city threatening to leave unless taxpayers built them a new skyscraper, would it be “worth the discussion”?  If Duke Energy came to the city wanting a new city funded nuclear reactor, would that be taken seriously?

I would hope not.

We must end the idea that any business is deserving of taxpayer funding.  If the model was viable and profitable, no support from the public would be necessary.  To the contrary, if not forced to contribute to the funding of competition, other businesses may end up doing even better.

Here is the video of the exchange with Tarte and Brawley.



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