State representatives want to form task force to bring NBA back to Seattle
Mike Hope and David Frockt want to form a bipartisan task force of lawmakers, business leaders and grass-roots activists to begin the work to bring an NBA team to Seattle. One of their ideas is to institute a "jock tax" to help pay for a new arena.
Seattle Times staff reporter
They call it a "jock tax" and if someone around here had thought of it a few years ago, maybe the Sonics — not the Oklahoma City Thunder — would be playing in the Western Conference finals.
The tax is one of a few ideas being considered by two Washington state lawmakers who hope to bring the NBA back to Seattle.
State Representatives Mike Hope (R-Lake Stevens) and David Frockt (D-Seattle) said the first step is forming a bipartisan task force of lawmakers, business leaders and grass-roots activists.
The coalition plans to discuss the merits of a jock tax that would require visiting professional athletes to pay state income tax for each game in the state of Washington. The funds from the tax would help finance construction of a new facility or renovation of an existing one for an NBA team.
"We have different, various ideas," Hope said. "I'm not exactly sure which one will go forward, but I want to have something done and tangible, a piece of legislation ready to go by January of next year. So that when the Legislature convenes they can start hammering away at this."
According to an April 12, 2009, article in The Los Angeles Times, the state of California collected $102 million in taxes from visiting athletes in 2006-07.
"It's a huge amount of money," Hope said. "Every time the Mariners and Seahawks go there, they get taxed. But when their players come here, we don't tax them.
"To me it's about equity. It's about developing a plan to do that and to use that money to bond out for something. What I like about it the most is, it doesn't cost the taxpayers in Washington state a single dime."
For jaded Sonics fans still angry after Seattle political leaders agreed to settle a lawsuit that allowed Clay Bennett to move the team to Oklahoma City, it's the first significant plan from Olympia to bring an NBA team to the area.
Jason Reid, who directed "Sonicsgate: Requiem for a Team," plans to join the task force, and is cautiously optimistic.
"We're obviously excited about anyone who wants to bring the issue to the forefront, especially when it comes to someone in government actually representing the effort to bring the Sonics back," Reid said. "So pardon the pun, but we have a lot of hope in Hope because he's saying the right things, at least as of now."
NBA spokesman Tim Frank declined to comment.
At the NBA Board of Governors meeting last month, commissioner David Stern said the league has no plans on expanding the 30-team league domestically, which means the only way Seattle can acquire a team is through relocation.
In perhaps a cruel twist of fate, Bennett is the chairman of the NBA relocation committee. However, Reid believes the Thunder owner might help Seattle.
"Just the way things were handled in Seattle, everybody involved wants that black eye (removed)," he said. "Between the NBA and Clay Bennett and even the local politicians, nobody came out of it looking good."
A few teams could potentially relocate within the next few years.
The NBA purchased the New Orleans Hornets last December. The Kings petitioned to move to Anaheim, Calif., but will remain in Sacramento at least one more season.
NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said last month 22 of the 30 teams are projected to lose money this season as the league braces for an expected lockout.
While the NBA attempts to fix a broken business model, Hope said it's important that lawmakers begin to lay the groundwork for a team to relocate to this area.
"The business community, they want to see something tangible first," Hope said. "And that's what we have to get give them. That's what the Legislature has to step up and do."
Reid said he believes Sonics fans will soon watch their favorite team in Seattle once again.
"I've maintained hope that we can get it done relatively quickly," he said. "That's why we've maintained the heat and kept the pressure on.
"I'm hopeful for a five-year plan. It's realistic in that window we can get a team back, especially if the will is there."
Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or email@example.com
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