The IRS has given the New York Yankees, Mets and New Jersey Nets the go-ahead to use tax-free bonds to pay for their new homes.
The new Yankee Stadium, the new Mets Citi Field and the Nets arena in Brooklyn will all benefit from this ruling and the taxpayers of New York will be ripped off. In baseball terms, it's a foul deal and the taxpayers are the victims of a bad call.
Even as the IRS has put into effect tough new regulations for private businesses using tax-exempt financing, it's made an exception for these sports teams. Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich is investigating whether land assessments and construction costs for the new Yankee Stadium have been exaggerated by as much as $500 million so the Yankees could qualify for the new tax-free bonds.
As Juan Gonzalez reports in the Daily News, ''the federal government just gave America's richest sports team another gift.''
It seems incredible that this is happening at a time when Wall Street is in crisis and many New Yorkers are concerned about how the reeling economy affects them.
Kucinich told New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg in a letter that the city's Finance Department exaggerated the value of land and construction to help the Yankees qualify for the bonds.
''The assessment was cooked,” said Democratic Assemblyman Richard Brodsky of Westchester, in his usual blunt style. “It was done in violation of sworn promises to the IRS.''
City officials say this isn't so. Kucinich will be calling them as witnesses in a hearing on the stadium's financing.
Ultimately, of course, as ticket prices soar and the sale of luxury suites roll up millions of dollars in revenue for the teams, the citizens of New York will be deprived of money. We are a city of rabid sports fans, but New Yorkers will never be enthusiastic about money being taken out of their pockets.
It's a steal -- and not the kind to cheer about.