Sin tax opponents propose facility fee alternative

CLEVELAND -- A group opposing extending the sin tax for 20 years to pay for repairs for sports facilities is pushing an alternative.

Coalition Against the Sin Tax members Alan Glazen and lawyer Peter Pattakos explained the proposal to reporters in the shadow of Progressive Field and Quicken Loans Arena Friday morning.

They are suggesting that a fair share facility fee, a surcharge of $3.25, be added to each ticket sold for each event at FirstEnergy Stadium, Progressive Field and The Q.

They claim that would bring in approximately the same revenues as the sin tax extension.

The Q already charges a $3 facilities fee for all concerts, shows like Disney on Ice, the circus and other special events.

The fee is said to cover the specific operating costs incurred by the facility for the costs to set up for events.

The Cavaliers, Monsters and Gladiators do not charge that fee for their tickets. The Cavaliers are the facility operator and cover all operational costs for home team tenant games.

The coalition argues the existing fee is proof that a fee does not deter customers from coming .

The coalition says about 4.14 million tickets are sold to events at the three facilities in an average year. They say that since the sin tax does not expire until July next year, there is enough time to review, evaluate and enact this proposal.

Sin tax supporters have argued that additional fees on tickets would be a deterrent to many families coming to events and make it harder to afford tickets.

Sin tax campaign spokesman Steve Luttner said, "Any such increase, whether it be the admissions taxes, facility fees or other surcharge on every ticket, will have the same result -- Cleveland will be less competitive in attracting events and fewer people will come."

Keep Cleveland Strong-Say Yes to Issue 7 released this statement Friday afternoon:

Proposing to punish Cuyahoga County families and sports fans by imposing a new, large ticket tax to pay for major repairs at our three major league venues is terribly flawed on multiple fronts.

The group proposing the peculiar idea announced earlier today offers up a confusing thought process: On the one hand, they bemoan the cost of ticket prices, but now they want to considerably raise those prices. They are proposing to make it even more difficult for Cuyahoga County families to attend sporting events.

County Councilman Pernel Jones said, "There is nothing fair about this plan that has ironically been dubbed 'FairShare.' By pricing families out of games, this would result in smaller crowds -- which means less business for those businesses that depend upon fans. That puts jobs at risk."

There is an existing 8 percent admissions tax on tickets in Cleveland. That tax is already one of the highest in the country. Revenues from that tax now go to the city to pay for a wide range of public services. Increasing the price of admission would discourage attendance. Fewer fans would mean less revenue for the city to pay for basic municipal services.

"This is simply the latest in a steady stream of wobbly ideas this group has trotted out in a misguided attempt to replace the existing tax on cigarettes and alcohol – which costs 1.5 cents a beer and less than a nickel for a pack of cigarettes," County Councilman Dan Brady said. "These various ideas have been hatched and then publicly floated with apparently little thought, and none of them have stuck. Today we see the latest trial balloon. As soon as one idea loses steam, they float yet another."

County Council President C. Ellen Connally added: "Punishing families and Cleveland's sports fans by placing a substantial new tax on their tickets is wrong and misguided. For a group that opposes continuing to pay a mere 1.5 cents a beer without increasing taxes, it's confusing that they now want to enact a new, large tax that hits families the hardest."

Cuyahoga County already has in place a fair, low-cost method of meeting the public's obligations to finance major repairs at our three sports venues. Issue 7 is not a tax increase – it merely continues the tiny, existing tax on alcohol and tobacco.

"There is no need to raises taxes or invoke new taxes to meet this obligation," said Cleveland City Council President Kelley. "Renewing this tax – voting yes on Issue 7 – will simply continue the system we have had in place for 24 years."

If a mother and father take their two children to a game, it would cost them an additional $13 for one game. (To generate the same amount of revenues under the existing tax plan, they would have to drink 866 beers or consume 289 packs of cigarettes. Imagine what those numbers would be if that family went to five or 10 games a year.)

"But under this deficient plan for a new tax, families would likely go to fewer games," Kelley said. "Further, adding any additional costs would make the facilities less competitive to attract events."


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