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July 20th, 2011 By | News | Posted In: County Commission, Spending, Public Policy, 2011 Election

Baptist Ministers Join Tax Effort

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A Hamilton County commissioner and several local residents will get some major help in collecting signatures as part of their effort to create an admissions tax for Bengals and Reds games.

The Baptist Ministers Conference voted today to endorse the petition initiative sought by the Citizens’ League Against Subsidized Sports (CLASS Action). The latter group was formed in May to consider methods for ending the burden on county services caused by the subsidies needed to operate Paul Brown Stadium and Great American Ball Park.

The day-to-day operating costs for the two facilities — which are owned by the county and leased to the teams — total about $9.5 million annually.

The city of Cincinnati already has a 3-percent tax levied on game tickets, but CLASS Action is calling for a new tax to help cover the operational costs that the teams or the leagues refuse to cover themselves. The petition move is calculated to bypass provisions in the teams’ deals that bar county commissioners from enacting such a tax, CLASS Action said.

CLASS Action was founded by Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune; lifelong Reds and Bengals fan Russ Hurley; Jeff Capell of the Coalition Opposed to Additional Spending and Taxes; former Xavier basketball standout Conny Warren; and Kathy Binns, Portune’s chief of staff, among others.

If put on the ballot and approved by voters, the petition initiative would enact an admissions tax at Reds and Bengals games in an amount required to pay all operational expenses of the stadiums currently paid by county taxpayers. The amount would vary slightly season by season, but is estimated to add about 44 cents to the price of a Reds ticket and $14 to the price of a Bengals ticket.

Referring to the Baptist Minsters Conference endorsement, Portune said, “Today’s action by the preeminent faith-based, community action committee in the region is a tremendous vote of confidence in the fairness of our approach and a real shot in the arm of momentum for the effort.”

We seek to restore fairness and balance to the issue of the stadiums which have caused so much pain and financial hardship on our community,” said the Rev. Doc Foster, a conference leader, in a prepared statement.

Foster added, “While we support what CLASS Action is doing, and while we will work tirelessly to get the signatures needed to place this on the ballot and — once there — to pass it at the election, we pray that the owners of the teams and the leagues do the right thing in the first place and agree to pay for all of the costs of baseball and football operations at the stadiums out of their own pocketbooks.”

Due to financial pressures caused by the stadiums, county officials have cut more than $70 million in services to residents since 2007, CLASS Action says, including the loss of more than 1,500 jobs to try to offset deficits in the county's stadium account.

 
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