Oregon Stadium Campaign
Testimony for HB
Thursday, June 12, 2003
Co-chairs Brown and Clarno, and
Senators. My name is Howard Lavine. I am Governor Kulongoski's policy advisor
on bringing Major League baseball to Oregon.
I'm here today to convey
the Governor's support for HB 3606, a bill that will finance up to $150 million
of the cost of a major league baseball park, to be located in
The Governor has been following the progress of this bill
closely, and as he told Commissioner Selig in a letter March, he is a long time
fan of baseball (this is obvious from the décor of his office), and
wants to see the best of the best playing in Oregon.
recognizes that many Legislators - and members of the public - are asking: Why
this bill? And why now?
Let me briefly give you the Governor's
perspective on both of these questions.
Although you will be hearing
from many experts on the technical details of the HB 3606 - I can tell you that
the Governor feels comfortable supporting the bill because of the extraordinary
protection it provides to both the State and taxpayers.
His bottom line
is this: Building a baseball park in Portland cannot dip into the General Fund
or take money away from any government service. Nor can it leave the State and
taxpayers liable to bondholders during the term of the bonds.
Governor's General Counsel, Mardi Saathoff, will be discussing risk issues in
her testimony. But I do want to point out that the Governor is satisfied that
HB 3606 meets his bottom line requirements.
This is true because of the
protections for the State built into the bill - including the fact that the
bill requires the State to do absolutely nothing until there is a grant
agreement that is approved by DAS and Treasury.
And because the income
tax revenue that will be earmarked to pay off the bonds would not otherwise be
available for other government services.
The Governor is also looking at
the other side of the ledger: How will the people of Oregon benefit from having
a Major League baseball team in Portland? This gets to the question of: Why
First, this is not a decision that can wait for better economic
times. If HB 3606 does not pass, Major League baseball may not come this way
again for a generation.
On the other hand, if it does pass, Portland
will likely get one or more additional bites out of the baseball apple - even
if the Expos go elsewhere.
Second, as much as the Governor loves
baseball, he loves his four basic principles of governance - which he as
repeated many times - even more. One of those principles is that we must grow
the Oregon economy and put people back to work.
So his message to the
proponents has been essentially this: "Don't cork the benefits. I'm only
interested in what's real." The Governor now believes that bringing a Major
League Team to Oregon will mean real economic benefits for all the citizens of
There are the 1,500 high wage construction jobs that are very
much needed at this time of severe unemployment.
There will be new
money for the General Fund after the bonds are paid off - and possibly sooner,
depending on how much revenue is collected from the ballplayer's
It is also possible that taxes paid by the ballplayers on
endorsement contracts and investment income will go to the General Fund and be
available for other government services.
The Governor wants to increase
tourism, in part by branding Oregon as the state with the most enjoyable - and
comfortable - summer weather. Bringing a Major League Baseball team here will
help us do that.
A Major League team will draw new dollars from outside
Oregon, especially Clark County, Washington - and will help stem the outflow of
Oregon dollars that are now going to support the Mariners.
This is a
significant amount of money. Right now Oregonians make up a large segment of
the Mariner fan base.
The Governor is also impressed by the support this
project is getting from both business and labor.
This support is no
surprise. Take "baseball" out of the headline and what you have is an
environmentally clean industry, with an $80 million dollar payroll, wanting to
move to Oregon - at no cost to the taxpayers.
Finally, there is the
intangible - but Governor believes real - benefit that attracting a team to
Oregon will bring a very positive national spotlight to Portland and this great
state. We know that Portland is a first tier city; we want the rest of the
world to know it too.
Just one personal observation: I worked for the
Mayor of Baltimore when Camden Yards was being debated - and subsequently
built. Many of the same legitimate questions being raised now - were raised
then: Cost, timing, benefits to rural communities.
But Camden Yards
turned out to be a spectacular success. And you would be hard pressed to find
anyone in Maryland who regrets the decision to build Camden Yards.
Governor Kulongoski believes that if this Committee and the Legislature
decide to pass HB 3606, a similar success story will be written here in