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Husky Stadium, Safeco Field cut out of tax plan... for now
Posted by Jim Brunner
OLYMPIA -- A legislative panel on Tuesday stripped Husky Stadium and Safeco Field out of a bill that divvies up hundreds of millions of dollars in future King County tax revenues.
University of Washington boosters have been trying for more than a year to convince the state to pay for part of a proposed $300 million renovation of Husky Stadium. And the Seattle Mariners have pushed even longer for public money to pay for future maintenance at Safeco Field.
But both those projects were snubbed by the House Finance Committee when it voted 6-3 to pass HB 2912.
The bill carves up hotel, car-rental and restaurant taxes now dedicated to paying off the debt from construction of Safeco and Qwest fields (and even some left over from the Kingdome). Starting in 2012, the money would be redirected to arts, low-income housing, tourism promotion and a host of other projects to be determined by King County.
But Husky Stadium and Safeco Field were excluded from the list of possible recipients under an amendment approved by the committee.
Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, who chairs the Finance Committee, said he'd prefer to leave those decisions up to King County. But he said the bill couldn't get enough votes to advance with the stadiums still in it.
Rep. Bob Hasegawa, D-Seattle, said he and other lawmakers couldn't stomach devoting public money to projects like Husky Stadium while they're also cutting financial aid and raising tuition at state colleges.
"It sends the wrong message that we're willing to fund a stadium," Hasegawa said.
The Legislature infamously overlooked a public vote and agreed to provide public money for a new Mariners stadium in 1995. They followed up with a package for Qwest Field in 1997 (that one was endorsed by voters.)
But lawmakers have been hostile to big stadium projects since then. The Seattle Supersonics unsuccessfully begged for a share of the same pot of money for years before finally running off to Oklahoma City.
Tuesday's vote doesn't necessarily mean the end of the Husky Stadium or Safeco Field proposals.
Supporters of those projects can try to add them back into the bill as it moves toward the House floor and then on to the state Senate.
"This is not a done deal," said Hunter, who predicted some version of HB 2912 would be one of the last bills still in play at the end of the 60-day legislative session. "I just don't know what's going to happen in the end."
Tuesday's committee vote fell along party lines, with six Democrats supporting the measure and three Republicans voting against it.
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