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Revenue Amendment Act of 2003"
the Committee on Finance and Revenue
Angela M. Jones
Good morning Mr. Chair and members of the Committee on Finance and
Revenue. I am Angela M. Jones, Executive Director of DC Action for
Children. DC Action for Children is an independent, nonprofit,
multi-issue advocacy organization dedicated to improving conditions for
children, youth and families in the District of Columbia.
I am pleased to take this opportunity to present our views of Bill
15-270, "Ballpark Revenue Amendment Act of 2003", the Mayor's
proposed financing plan to build a state-of-the-art stadium for a Major
League Baseball team. As you know, DC ACT is committed to ensuring that
programs to support children, youth and families are fully funded. We
believe that the mayor's proposal jeopardizes the city's ability to
adequately fund essential services. We also believe that it sends the
message to hard-working residents that their needs are not deserving of
the time, energy and commitment of the mayor and his administration. As
a result, we oppose the plan and urge you, the committee and your
colleagues on the Council to disapprove the legislation.
Mr. Evans, we like many others across the District and the region
support MLB coming to the nation's capitol. But we cannot support an
investment of $339 million in public money when the city is flat- or
de-funding core programs. Consider, for example, that it was just last
week that you and your colleagues passed a budget that will
only serve 14,000 of the 31,500 children eligible for subsidized child
fund only a small portion of the young people who want and need to
work during the school year and on school break. The programs offered by
the Department of Employment Services provide valuable opportunities to
the city's future long-term contributors to the tax base.
deny more than 50% of the children and families who apply for emergency
do little to improve the job skills of low-skilled and
severely limit access to out-of-school time programs.
All because there is not enough money
DC ACT believes that the mayor's plan is fundamentally flawed: public
financing of a MLB stadium is simply not good public policy. This has
been demonstrated quite clearly by DC Fiscal Policy Institute here
today, in their briefing to the City Council last month and their recent
paper Would a Publicly Financed Baseball Stadium Pay Off for DC? Economic
Research Suggests the Answer is "No".
We believe it is equally bad public policy for an elected official to
allow one segment of the community, in this case the business community,
to take taxes off the table unless they approve. We believe, in fact, that increasing taxes on businesses to fund quality education,
out-of-school time, youth employment and job training, and child care
has benefits that far exceed those attributed to an MLB team in the
District of Columbia.
Furthermore, we take issue with key elements of the administration's
- Job creation:
The proposal states that jobs would be created, a benefit for
District residents. But the plan also notes that only one-third of the jobs, about 380 (180 FTEs
at the stadium, 200 in the surrounding community/economy), would go to District
residents. DCFPI projects that the cost per DC job is, therefore, $900,000. Not cost-effective
and not significant given that the vast majority of these jobs will be day-of-game
concessions and other low paying jobs.
The jobs created, as mentioned above, will largely be minimum wage jobs,
offering very little to workers and to the local economy. And families who earn
minimum wage must earn approximately $14 per hour (for a family of 4) to meet their
financial obligations (housing, child care, food, transportation, etc.). It is doubtful that
M-stadium-related jobs will pay that wage.
Finally, we suggest that spending limited resources on job development for
suburbanites should not be a priority of the District government. As mentioned above,
two-thirds of the jobs created are expected to go to residents of the suburbs.
- Boosting the local economy
The Office of Planning asserts that MLB will increase the need and
demand for restaurants, retail outlets and services. Yet, the research summarized
by DCFPI shows just the opposite. And the non-District residents who work at the
stadium or at surrounding businesses will take the majority of their earnings to
Maryland and Virginia.
There is also the issue of the "trickle-down effect of the taxes on
businesses across the city. While businesses may not pass it
on to customers, we are certain that at least some of the new taxes will be passed on. How will this boost the local
economy? We believe that limiting the ability to spend because cash is restricted is
not good for the economy.
DC ACT also takes issue with many supporters who view ML13 in the
District as central to improving the visibility and image of the
nation's capitol. While we might agree that Major League Baseball
increase's the city's cache, we would argue that the current state of
many neighborhoods would leave visitors with a negative impression, or
worse, reinforce a negative impression. Consider, for example, the push
of CulturalTourism DC. They are urging visitors to travel into
neighborhoods that are often overlooked. A trip to Adams Morgan/Mount
Pleasant/Columbia Heights will yield not only good food and people
watching, but also a close-up look at trash and broken glass as well as
unmowed grass at Lincoln Multicultural Center, a Department of Parks and
Recreation Facility in Ward 1. A trip to U Street will have visitors
eating in hip cafes. Just around the corner, they will find graffiti at
Harrison Recreation Center.
We believe that how we treat our children speaks volumes about the
character of the government and the residents of the District of
Columbia. How can the city fund a playground for millionaires when
recreation centers, pools and services for children are closing and
children are playing amongst broken glass and other hazards? We believe
that this is where the emphasis should be - in developing the human
capital of the city's residents.
As I have said, DC Action for Children opposes the current proposal.
What we do support are the principles developed by DC Fiscal Policy
Institute. They are:
Given the District's current fiscal crisis - and its ongoing
struggles to meet basic service needs -- a baseball stadium does not
seem to be a wise investment of hundreds of millions of dollars of
public funds. The District could develop alternate proposals that
would show its support for a baseball team withoutdevoting such a
large amount of public funds. An alternate proposal could be guided
by the following principles.
A new stadium should be built primarily with private funds.
Residents of other communities have rejected heavy public
financing for new stadiums. In San Francisco, the team owner
agreed to pay most of the costs of a new stadium after three voter
referenda for public financing were rejected. The District can
show its support for a baseball team through more targeted and
A new stadium and team should generate direct tax benefits for the
A new stadium should not be exempted from property taxes, and basic tax
revenues generated from stadium activity should flow into the District's
general fund, rather than being used to pay for stadium construction.
This would help ensure that a baseball team provides some fiscal benefit
to the District.
Any public financing for stadium construction should come from special
fees or taxes on those who benefit directly. The District could support
stadium construction through additional taxes on those who attend events
at the stadium. This could include, for example, a surcharge on tickets,
or an additional tax on parking or concessions. In this case, the
standard taxes levied on tickets, concessions, and parking would go into
the District's general fund, and only the special additional taxes would
be used for stadium construction costs.
Given the District's current fiscal crisis - and its ongoing struggles
to meet basic service needs - a baseball stadium does not seem to be a
wise investment of hundreds of millions of dollars of public funds. Mr.
Evans, again we urge you to deny the mayor his wish to bring publicly
financed MLB to this city. We simply cannot afford it and therefore
should not do it.
Thank you for providing this opportunity to testify before you today. I
would be happy to answer any questions you might have.