How it’s done

At the higher levels of government, the people handing out tax breaks and similar largesse to their friends and relatives are required to appear at least marginally discreet: it would never do, for instance, for the House to pass a continuing resolution containing something like “[dollar amount] for [giant corporation] in exchange for services to be rendered,” or for the Senate, were it capable of writing a budget, to set aside [dollar amount] in such a budget specifically to hand out to groups raising money to fight [giant corporation].

Maryland, which surrounds the District of Columbia like a frightened, mentally retarded amoeba, has learned much from D.C. For example:

The Maryland Senate advanced a bill Friday that would exempt Lockheed Martin from paying about $450,000 a year in hotel taxes to Montgomery County related to a training center that the giant defense contractor operates in Bethesda.

As written, the bill applies to any company that operates a lodging facility in Maryland solely to support a training or conference facility that is not open to the general public. Sen. Nancy J. King (D-Montgomery), the bill’s chief sponsor, acknowledged that no company but Lockheed Martin currently qualifies for the exemption.

Oklahoma, perhaps due to its considerable distance (in several senses) from Washington, is slightly less adept at this scheme. This is the statute (68 O.S. Supp. 2005, §1356) that exempts Thunder tickets from sales tax:

58. [Exempt:] Sales of tickets made on or after September 21, 2005, and complimentary or free tickets for admission issued on or after September 21, 2005, which have a value equivalent to the charge that would have otherwise been made, for admission to a professional athletic event in which a team in the National Basketball Association is a participant, which is held in a facility owned or operated by a municipality, a county or a public trust of which a municipality or a county is the sole beneficiary, and sales of tickets made on or after the effective date of this act, and complimentary or free tickets for admission issued on or after the effective date of this act, which have a value equivalent to the charge that would have otherwise been made, for admission to a professional athletic event in which a team in the National Hockey League is a participant, which is held in a facility owned or operated by a municipality, a county or a public trust of which a municipality or a county is the sole beneficiary.

Note that there are two possibilities here, inasmuch as both NBA or NHL teams were being sought at the time. The facility currently known as Chesapeake Energy Arena is in fact owned by the city of Oklahoma City. And the statute would apply equally well to Tulsa, which owns the BOK Center, were they to get a team; since Tulsa wasn’t on the major-league radar at the time, it may be presumed that the wording was designed to ensure at least some support from hopeful and/or dreaming Tulsa legislators.

Still, what’s most alarming about that measure is not the fact that it’s yet another tax break on behalf of someone other than the grandly general “We the People,” but that by 2005 Title 68 had at least 1,356 sections. This is micromanagement on a megascale.







5 comments

  1. davidc »

    9 March 2013 · 6:30 pm

    I wonder how much campaign funding Sen Nancy King (D) is getting from Lockheed Martin ?

  2. Nicole »

    10 March 2013 · 3:05 pm

    “which surrounds the District of Columbia like a frightened, mentally retarded amoeba”

    That is simply a fantastic turn of phrase.

  3. CGHill »

    10 March 2013 · 8:46 pm

    It’s the result of staring at the map cross-eyed for too long.

  4. stixx23 »

    11 March 2013 · 11:54 pm

    But is the municipality or county the sole beneficiary of the arena now that the Thunder gets the naming rights?

  5. CGHill »

    12 March 2013 · 8:58 am

    “Sole beneficiary,” in this context, refers only to the case where a public trust owns the facility. (Wording is a little spaghetti-ish.) The city gets a cut of the naming-rights proceeds, though admittedly not as much as they’d have gotten had they sold them outright instead of letting the team make the determination.

RSS feed for comments on this post