Proposed Legislation Could Eliminate Potential Funding Source For Portland Major League Baseball Effort

Two bills, one in the Senate and one in the House, would undo a 2003 law that provides financing for a baseball stadium with a tax on players salaries.

(Portland Diamond Project)

Back in 2003, when a group of locals including then-Portland Mayor Vera Katz were trying to recruit Major League Baseball to Portland, they convinced the Legislature to approve a way to help finance a stadium–setting aside the personal income tax on players' salaries for several years and dedicating the proceeds to the project.

That money-—up to $150 million in the 2003 legislation—could provide a down payment on a stadium.

The earlier attempt then to lure a Major League Baseball franchise to Portland fizzled but the law stayed on the books and has served as a potential source of funding for the Portland Diamond Project, the group currently trying to bring MLB to Portland.

But under new legislation that will soon be introduced by Oregon Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick (D-Portland) and others, the earlier law—know as Senate Bill 5—would be repealed.

That could be a major setback for the Portland Diamond Project.

Diamond Project officials have previously said they're not seeking new public money. But it's widely assumed they would need the existing tax arrangement to finance a stadium — and potentially more.

As WW reported last year, the mechanism established under Senate Bill 5 does not exist elsewhere in the nation.

Site: Portland's Baseball Backers Have a Secret Weapon Warming Up in the Bullpen: An Unprecedented Tax Scheme

The Portland Diamond Project has taken a step toward identifying a site for a stadium. In November, the group announced a tentative deal with the Portland of Portland for a long-term lease Terminal 2, a little-used marine shipping facility in Northwest Portland.

Site: The Portland Diamond Project Announces It Has "Agreement in Principle" on Port of Portland Terminal

Burdick is joined by Sens. Laurie Monnes Anderson (D-Gresham), Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene), Chuck Riley (D-Hillsboro) and Rep. Susan McLain (D-Hillsboro) on the repeal bill. Rep. Tawna Sanchez (D-Portland) is sponsoring a similar bill in the House.

Burdick is the Senate's second most powerful member, and if she makes it a priority, the legislation would have a good chance of passing, given that both chambers are controlled by Democrats. Burdick did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

John McIsaac, a spokesman for Portland Diamond Project, says the group opposes the bills.

"None of this $150 million bond currently exists today and won't exist until a team comes to Oregon and begins paying its employees and players," says McIsaac in a statement. "SB 5 also helps protect the State and the City of Portland from needing to raise or spend taxpayer dollars on a ballpark. This lets the teams themselves have skin in the game and help pay for a portion of the ballpark."

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