State Capitol News
8:48 am
Wed January 29, 2014

Debate Underway as to Whether Statewide Taxes Should Pay for Big Events

Lawmakers are poised to debate whether taxpayers everywhere, from Page to Nogales and Yuma to St. Johns, should help Glendale pay its costs for hosting next year’s Super Bowl. Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer takes a closer look.

The University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale
Credit glendaleaz.com

Lawmakers are poised to debate whether taxpayers everywhere, from Page to Nogales and Yuma to St. Johns, should help Glendale pay its costs for hosting next year’s Super Bowl. Arizona Public Radio’s Howard Fischer takes a closer look.

Glendale hosted the annual event in 2008 — and, according to an audit, spent more on things like security than it made in tax revenues. Now, Mayor Jerry Weiers wants the state to make up to $4 million available to cover the costs for the 2015 event. The request has provoked unhappy reaction from some of Weiers’ former colleagues in the Legislature, like Rep. John Kavanagh.

“Cities and towns desperately compete to get these high-attendance venues for all the tax dollars and all the economic development it brings in. And then they turn around and say we can’t afford it? That’s absurd,” Kavanagh said.

Weiers responded that bid for the bowl was made before he became mayor last year. But, he insisted this isn’t just a Glendale event. That’s also the assessment of House Majority Leader David Gowan, who agreed to sponsor the legislation even though he’s from Sierra Vista.

“We have Tombstone down where we live. You have the Grand Canyon up north. You have all these great resources, painted canyons. You’ve got Saguaro National Forest. You’ve got all these great places that people are going to go visit. And they are. So our revenues are going to increase during that timeframe that people are here visiting,” Gowan said.

That’s also the belief of Flagstaff Republican Rep. Bob Thorpe.

“Let’s say we had Super Bowl over in Glendale. Where are the people going to stay? They might be staying in Scottsdale. They might be staying in Tucson. Who knows where they’re going to stay and spend their money, so that all those tax benefits aren’t necessarily going to end up in the city of Glendale,” Thorpe said.

But, Sen. Steve Farley said he isn’t convinced any of this will help his home town.

“I don’t see a whole lot of people coming in for something in Glendale and then spending a lot of money in Tucson,” Farley said.

And, Rep. Adam Kwasman said the legislation is based on a premise he’s not buying — that events like these have any positive economic benefit to Glendale, much less the state as a whole.

“Subsequent economic studies of things such as the Olympics have not come out in the black. Whereas a lot of promotion and a lot of good feelings go into these things, a justice-being-blind true weighing of the impact has usually been negative,” Kwasman said.

Even Gov. Jan Brewer, who actually lives in Glendale, may take some convincing.

“I haven’t looked at any of those figures. Certainly I’ve been in contact with the leadership over there at the Legislature and with the host committee. And we’ve talked generally about where and how Arizona’s going to do this. But I think we need to see more information, more data to make a decision just exactly how much of this that we can do,” Brewer said.

The measure is not limited to the Super Bowl. Any community that lands a special event would also be eligible for reimbursement — like if Phoenix gets the 2016 Republican National Convention, or Glendale’s bid to host the NCAA Final Four sometime between 2017 and 2020. But, it would not cover events that come to Arizona anyway, like the Fiesta Bowl or the Phoenix Open.