Senators Lankford, Booker, Rep Blumenauer Seek to End Federal Tax Incentives for Professional Sports Stadiums

WASHINGTON, DC – Senators James Lankford (R-OK), Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who is leading the bipartisan effort in the House, today introduced the Eliminating Federal Tax Subsidies for Stadiums Act, a bill to end generous federal subsidies for professional sports stadiums. The bill would close a loophole in the tax code that allows professional sports teams to finance new stadiums with municipal bonds that are exempt from federal taxes.

Municipal bonds are intended to give communities a way to finance projects, such as hospitals, schools, and roads, without needing to pay federal taxes on the debt’s interest. Using municipal bonds to finance sports stadiums diverts money away from these critical local infrastructure projects.

“Oklahomans should not be responsible for subsidizing the construction of professional sports stadiums in New York and New Yorkers should not be responsible for subsidizing sports stadiums in Oklahoma,” said Lankford. “Using billions of federal taxpayer dollars to build private stadiums when we have real infrastructure needs in our country is not a good way to prioritize a limited amount of funds. I’m grateful to work with Senator Cory Booker again to introduce this bill that would eliminate the use of federal tax-exempt bonds for sports stadiums. We need to be responsible with taxpayer dollars. This is an opportunity that we can work across the aisle to address federal government spending.”

“There’s no reason professional sports teams that generate billions of dollars in revenue should benefit from tax-exempt federal financing,” Booker said. “This bill would put an end to this wasteful practice and stop diverting dollars away from other critical local infrastructure projects.”

“The last thing billionaire sports franchise owners need is the federal government subsidizing the cost of their stadiums,” said Blumenauer. “Stadiums rarely produce the economic gains initially promised and drive poor land use decisions while bleeding municipal budgets dry and shortchanging critical programs for working families. We can do better.”

The bill would end federal subsidies for stadium financing, but would not prevent localities and states from bidding and offering economic incentives to teams. In eliminating this wasteful expenditure, the bill also unties the hands of local governments to finance their stadium subsidies with taxes on tickets and in-stadium purchases—allowing states to target taxes on the people who actually use and benefit from the subsidy. Current tax law does not allow local governments to finance federal stadium subsidies by levying taxes on stadium purchases.

This “subsidized sport stadiums” proposal was listed in the 2015 edition of Lankford’s annual government waste report, Federal Fumbles: 100 ways the government dropped the ball (page 53). Lankford and Booker introduced similar legislation in 2017.