'Billionaire capitalists demanding socialist handouts’: NY gov caves to Buffalo Bills owners’ demands for new taxpayer-funded stadium
New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D) on Monday unveiled a budget proposal obligating state taxpayers to fund the majority of a new 60,000-seat stadium for the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park. The largest sports cost-sharing agreement in American history was part of a "30-year commitment" to keeping the National Football League franchise, whose recent successes in seasonal playoffs have generated national attention toward upstate New York, in the Empire State.
"The Governor will advance a $600 million proposal in the state budget, and Erie County will contribute $250 million. The economic and tax impacts generated from the team will support more than 100 percent of the public share of the new stadium cost," Hochul's office said in a lengthy statement.
Lawmakers in Albany have just four days to review and either approve or disapprove of the governor's request.
"The deal includes a commitment from the Bills to play at the new stadium for the next 30 years. The Bills will begin design of the new stadium immediately, and all parties will begin negotiations on extending the team's current lease for Highmark Stadium that expires in 2023," the statement continued. "The stadium project is projected to create approximately 10,000 construction jobs and will be constructed using union labor in accordance with a Project Labor Agreement (PLA). The Bills will negotiate a PLA with the Building and Construction Trades Council of Buffalo, New York and Vicinity, AFL-CIO, on behalf of its affiliated local unions. The deal requires the Bills to agree to a Community Benefits Agreement, which is to be negotiated."
Once construction is completed in 2026, ownership of the complex will transfer to New York State, which will then lease it to the Bills.
"In the event the Bills default on the agreement, the State and County have the right to go to court to enforce non-relocation terms," Hochul's press release added. "The new stadium can be used for civic purposes, such as, if necessary, vaccination delivery and election operations - as well as in emergencies."
Although Hochul and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz lauded the contract as "a long-term deal that repays state taxpayers for their upfront investment," New York State did not have the upper hand in the negotiations.
The team's owner, Terry Pegula, owns multiple sports ventures and is a natural gas tycoon with a net worth of $8 billion. According to Bloomberg, Pegula had threatened to relocate the Bills to another city unless the state agreed to finance the bulk of the four-year project.
He was thrilled with Hochul's decision to bankroll his endeavor with public funds.
"We took another step today to solidify our collective goal of constructing a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills in Orchard Park. We are grateful for the time, efforts and unwavering commitment made by Governor Hochul and her team throughout this process," Pegula said. "While there are a few more yards to go before we cross the goal line, we feel our public-private partnership between New York State, Erie County led by County Executive Mark Poloncarz, and the National Football League will get us there."
The NFL, which generated $1.8 billion in revenue in 2021 and enjoys tax-exempt status, was also elated.
"We are pleased with the tremendous progress that has been made on a plan that will provide Bills fans the world-class facility they deserve in western New York. We appreciate the extraordinary leadership and partnership of Governor Hochul, Senator Schumer, and Erie County Executive Poloncarz," said NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. "We will continue to work closely with them and the Pegulas to make this exciting vision a reality. The Pegulas have continued to demonstrate their commitment to Buffalo, a market that has supported the NFL for generations. This new stadium will further provide the foundation to help the Bills remain competitive in western New York for decades to come."
Whether New Yorkers will see a decent return on their investment is nontheless uncertain.
Hochul's statement said that "the Bills generate $27 million annually in direct income, sales and use taxes for New York State, Erie County and Buffalo. These revenues will grow and will cumulatively amount to more than $1.6 billion over the 30-year lease period. Furthermore, fans who attend games from across New York, the U.S. and Canada and spend money locally that would not otherwise be spent in the region will result in an economic impact of more than $385 million annually."
But Bloomberg countered that claim, explaining that "economists who have studied public sports subsidies have found that the impact of new stadiums on the local economy is small. The benefits are exaggerated, they say, because consumers who spend money on sports would likely spend their money on other forms of local entertainment."
Bloomberg also noted that the Bills have the NFL's "second-smallest television market after the Green Bay Packers."
And while there was widespread glee among some elected officials about the deal's finalization, members of the public were far less enthusiastic.
The fact that a multi-billionaire managed to extort a massive public subsidy is not sitting well with many New Yorkers, given the palette of pressing social and economic challenges facing their state.
For example, the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), which provided $2.4 billion in federal funding to cover rental arrears from the COVID-19 pandemic, has stalled. Only half of that money has been distributed. The state's coffers have run dry, and because the state's eviction moratorium expired in January, hundreds of thousands of New York tenants are either in a state of limbo or facing potential eviction through no fault of their own. It should be noted, however, that pending ERAP applications are an affirmative defense in an eviction case.
Furthermore, New Yorkers, who live in one of the most expensive energy markets in the United States, face massive utility arrears as well – $1.8 billion as of January 2022 – which were supposed to be covered by ERAP. The state has sought additional money from the federal government, but to date, only a paltry $119.4 million out of the $1.6 billion requested by Hochul has been allocated.
Additionally, on Friday, CNY Central reported that "the Office of Children and Family Services is looking at an $800 million dollar cut in funding this budget cycle. In the 2021-22 budget, OCFS received $4.5 billion. Now, the cut would bring them down to $3.7 billion. That office oversees and reviews DSS and CPS agencies across New York."
Thus, Hochul's proposal sparked intense backlash on social media.
"The Governor of NY is proposing spending 850 million taxpayer dollars to help build a $1.4 billion football stadium for the Buffalo Bills. The NFL is the richest sports franchise, full of billionaire capitalists demanding socialist handouts so they can make even more profits," former Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader tweeted on Monday.
The Governor of NY is proposing spending 850 million taxpayer dollars to help build a $1.4 billion football stadium for the Buffalo Bills. The NFL is the richest sports franchise, full of billionaire capitalists demanding socialist handouts so they can make even more profits. -R— Ralph Nader (@Ralph Nader) 1648506976
Nader was far from the only voice to object to the arrangement, which some suspected comes at the expense of struggling families.
Go Bills for sure, but this is a hard pill to swallow when the premier state-run hospital in New York City, SUNY Downstate, is in dire straits after being designated a COVID-19-only hospital by the previous administration.https://twitter.com/nickreisman/status/1508460813866127369\u00a0\u2026— Senator Zellnor Y. Myrie \u7c73\u7ef4 (@Senator Zellnor Y. Myrie \u7c73\u7ef4) 1648480949
It should be criminal to subsidize billionaires. It's not because the US is a Oligarchy-Plutocracy (that's rapidly piling-on Fascism).https://twitter.com/DanPriceSeattle/status/1508855246159757318\u00a0\u2026— Dr. Jack Brown (@Dr. Jack Brown) 1648579260
Buffalo Bills owner Terrence Pegula net worth is $5.8 billion and he's making taxpayers buy him a new toy. \n\nWe're back to bread and circuses & they're taking the bread away . . . \n#HuntTheRich— Whirled Peas (@Whirled Peas) 1648516092
Sounds like the City of Buffalo is paying an $850 million ransom.— John Delaney (@John Delaney) 1648574228
Don't worry though they're going to take 800 million from child and famiky services cause who needs that shit when the bills fail to make the superbowl— StraightFacedSavage (@StraightFacedSavage) 1648554031
Reverse Robin Hood. I guess billionaires make campaign contributions and low income families do not.— IStandWithUkraine \u270a\ud83c\udffd\ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6\u270a\ud83c\udffd (@IStandWithUkraine \u270a\ud83c\udffd\ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6\u270a\ud83c\udffd) 1648579414
She is also proposing taking away 800 million from Child and Family Services in the state.— Working Class Person (@Working Class Person) 1648507490
For comparison, @GovKathyHochul proposed only $189 million to fund the State\u2019s General Public Health Works program next year, which reimburses local health departments for providing core public health services.\n\nhttps://www.budget.ny.gov/pubs/archive/fy23/ex/fp/fy23fp-ex-amend.pdf\u00a0\u2026pic.twitter.com/TJVUOTtq9F— Isaac Michaels (@Isaac Michaels) 1648485157
The "analysis" of the stadium build doesn't even cover all the additional infrastructure costs required to support the stadium and doesn't specify the projected job/revenue increases. These projects are a massive scam.https://twitter.com/Debtors_Cartel/status/1503425341532037126?t=HGB03ooaVMeaSVYC0HQs3Q&s=19\u00a0\u2026— InTheShadows (@InTheShadows) 1648526531
The fact that they have the audacity to even float that idea speaks volumes.— Glenn (@Glenn) 1648507564
Increasing profit margins by making people pay you to build something is probably the most capitalist thing ever tbh— Me (@Me) 1648556857
That money could go to building out a renewable energy infrastructure, schools, & Medicare for All New Yorkers. @GovKathyHochul @citizensclimate @KHayhoe @ClimateSF @ClimateReality @350 @sunrisemvmt @MichaelEMann @Earthjustice @efjournal @drvolts— Susan Vaughan (@Susan Vaughan) 1648507252
This was done in the past and was OK - Now, government should prioritize NY urgent needs: homelesness, mental health, education.. we can't forget that NY is having serious issues that are bringing crime high up and security down low— MariaClaudiaLora (@MariaClaudiaLora) 1648559233
The NFL should pay for their own stadiums. NO TAX Dollars for them or their stadiums !— Steven H Bardo (@Steven H Bardo) 1648516913
Correct, but to be clear: these are billionaire capitalists demanding *capitalist* handouts so they can make even more profits— Lucas \u2728wow\u2728 (@Lucas \u2728wow\u2728) 1648519029
Using the tax dollars of millions of people who can not afford a ticket to any professional sports game is a bigger slap in the face than Will gave Chris...\n\nAnd no one talks about it.— Cate Manochio (@Cate Manochio) 1648566543
Substitute 'NFL owners' with almost any capitalist enterprise.— DearHuntingWithJesus (@DearHuntingWithJesus) 1648544877
Stop mis-identifying corporatism as socialism. The oligarchy stealing more from workers with the help of the government's monopoly on violence has nothing to do with workers owning and controlling the means of production in a democratic manner. It is the authoritarian antithesis.— J. L. Barlow (@J. L. Barlow) 1648569703
\u201cTo say [New York State is] going to spend $850 MILLION to get economic impacts is playing on people\u2019s emotions, and not dealing with reality. In the end, it\u2019s nothing more than a #subsidy to the NFL.\u201d\n\u2014 Mark Rosentraub, professor of sport management at the University of Michigan— What's Left of the Democrats (@What's Left of the Democrats) 1648566542
Even Bills fans were agast that such an agreement would be made.
As a Bills supporter I agree 100% with your viewpoint. Shameful. And telling\u2026— Charlie \u201c Chuck \u201c Bibbles (@Charlie \u201c Chuck \u201c Bibbles) 1648509384
$250 million directly from Erie county, where the stadium is located. We have major infrastructure and social issues here. My heart is heavy as a life-long Buffalonian who loves my team, but loves my community more. #billsstadium— Vanessa L Haddad (@Vanessa L Haddad) 1648507320
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