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Redskins funds spark debate
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer
Local delegates have differing views of Gov. Bob McDonnell’s decision to give the Washington Redskins $4 million in incentives to keep their training facility and headquarters in Loudoun County.
“I just honestly do not understand that (decision) at all. We had talked about it back when we were in session, and I thought we pretty much reached a consensus that it wasn’t a justified economic incentive,” Del. Don Merricks, R-Pittsylvania County, said Tuesday.
The Associated Press reported the team will receive a total of $6.5 million, including $4 million from discretionary funds that are controlled by McDonnell; $2 million from Loudoun County that will be paid over four years; and nearly $500,000 from the city of Richmond.
Del. Charles Poindexter, R-Glade Hill, said the state’s $4 million investment is earmarked for an expansion of the team’s headquarters.
“It’s just like expanding any other business” and will generate greater taxes for the state and the locality, Poindexter said. He said McDonnell “presented some numbers” that justified the state’s investment.
Because the state stood to lose more than it invested if the team moved, “this is a risk mitigation project, not unlike Virginia spending money” to help the Naval Air Station Oceana buy land so it does not move, said Poindexter, who also is a member of the Appropriations Committee.
If the team left Virginia, the state would lose $6.6 million in annual payroll taxes, he said.
“In addition, there’s real estate taxes to the locality (Loudoun County) for the existing headquarters and training camp, and personal property taxes” that are paid to the county, Poindexter said.
The team also pays Virginia Corporate Income Tax, “and the whole corporation purchases a lot of things in Virginia,” Poindexter said. He added the estimated 18,000 visitors to the training camp each year also affect the economy.
“If you look at football as a business — and it is a business — the numbers are there” to justify the state’s involvement, he said. “If you believe in keeping the business you have, it’s a business decision. ...”
A major contention about the deal was a lack of documentation about the team’s plans to relocate, Poindexter said.
The AP reported that senior members of McDonnell’s administration were asked repeatedly by Democrats and Republicans alike to validate relocation claims, without success.
“On business deals, not everything is always documented” in writing, Poindexter said. “They very clearly hinted that they were going (to leave Virginia), whether it was verbal or written, but I don’t think you’ll find that kind of thing” written down anywhere.
Because the deal came together quickly, the decision to offer incentives likely was not communicated well, Poindexter said. He noted the deal “moved down the football field as fast as a football.”
Merricks does not know if the team considered relocating, and he was not familiar with all of the reasons for giving incentives to the team. But “for me looking at it as a delegate, I just think it’s very difficult to justify that type of incentives for an organization that’s obviously making money. I just don’t know how you justify (giving) that kind of money to the Redskins, which pays millions of dollars to the players. I just personally don’t follow the logic,” he said.
Del. Danny Marshall II, R-Pittsylvania County, said he believes the incentives are “a good use of intended funds. I think every project has to stand on its own” merit, and if a project “creates jobs for the commonwealth,” it makes sense to offer incentives. “And I think this just makes sense.”
The football team also is an economic development prospect in that it creates jobs, Marshall said. They are “a little bit different jobs, but it’s still jobs, and they (the team) have a heck of a payroll.”
He likened the team’s impact in Loudoun County to the impact of the Martinsville Speedway locally.
The speedway’s annual economic impact was estimated at $170 million in 2009, according to previous reports.
State Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Glade Hill, did not return a call for comment.