"Dedicated" Stadium Fund Not so Dedicated After All


DC Mayor Adrian Fenty (D) is proposing to eliminate restrictions on the use of $50 million from the city's Ballpark Revenue Fund. He wants to use the money to pay down the city's deficit.

The Fund—filled by a tax on local businesses—was established to service the debt on the shiny new baseball stadium that the District's residents were forced to buy (and that has been sucking at baseballfailing to stimulate the local economy as promised, and refusing to pay its bills ever since). The city council votes on the idea tomorrow.

Fenty, by the way, was against public financing of stadiums, before he was for it, before he was against it again.

The Tax Foundation's David Splinter sorta-kinda defends Fenty's proposal by noting that dedicated funds can encourage waste:

While protecting funds may help approximate a user fee, it could also lead to wasteful spending.  For example, an appropriately set tax on cars could exactly pay for the road damage they cause. If the road tax is set too high then roads may be unnecessarily repaved just to spend down the dedicated fund. 

The Foundation claims that this story reveals "the difficulty in making tax dollars less fungible." Of course, if the city council hadn't promised away taxpayer dollars to fund the stadium in the first place, the debate would just be academic. Alas.

Reason has been a stadium skeptic since the beginning. Back in 2005, Dennis Coates lamented the sweetheart deal DC gave to Major League Baseball, and Matt Welch catalogued the lies upon which Nationals Stadium was built. Reason.tv asked whether publicly financed stadiums are really worth the cost: