Political Football in the Arizona Budget

Posted on June 01, 2005
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A small but important detail was overlooked by the press in the recent budget kerfuffle: the governor's line item veto that restored a guaranteed minimum level of funding for the Arizona Tourism and Sports Authority (ATSA), which is charged with developing sports facilities-including the new Cardinals Stadium-in Maricopa County. The ATSA gets about 17 percent of its annual budget from an NFL income tax. As it stands however, if revenue from that source falls below a certain level, the Authority receives an automatic transfer from the state's general fund.

HB2770, drafted as part of myriad budget measures, would have eliminated that automatic transfer. The state House and Senate had both approved the measure by May 6. By May 11, there were reports that the ATSA was asking Gov. Napolitano to line-item veto the legislation, which had not yet made it to the governor's desk. On May 20, Gov. Napolitano sided with the ATSA and vetoed the measure.

The governor's veto lacked the controversy and appeal of her simultaneous, more famous vetoes, because little ink has been spilled locally questioning the wisdom of publicly subsidized sports venues and teams. But policymakers would do well to heed the ample academic literature on this question-which is overwhelmingly skeptical of such investments-as they potentially face this issue again next year.

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