The Cleveland Cavaliers, Indians and Browns have invested about a million dollars into a political campaign to extend the city's so-called "sin tax" on cigarettes and booze.
If the "sin tax" extension passes at the polls tomorrow, then the city's pro sports teams will get millions in taxpayer money to renovate their stadiums. In fact, Cleveland will have spent over $1 billion in tax money since 1990 on its stadiums, reports Cleveland Magazine Politics.
The Cavaliers and Indians have planned $135 million worth of changes to Quicken Loans Arena and Progressive Field, notes Mother Jones.
The Browns have a $2 million per year deal (for 15 years) with the city for upgrades to First Energy Stadium.
According to Cleveland.com, workers at Progressive Field were told to wear pro "sin-tax" stickers on the Cleveland Indians' Opening Day. The Indians claim the sticker was voluntary, but one worker, who says he was fired for refusing to wear it, produced the employee instructions that read:
An Issue 7 Keep Cleveland Strong sticker is part of your uniform. Place it chest high on your outermost layer. UNIFORMS: Be sure you are wearing a name tag & an Issue 7 sticker on your outermost layer of clothing... See your supervisor for both.
"Keep Cleveland Strong" is a political PAC, which is funded mostly by the sports teams. The PAC has rejected calls for a $3.25 ticket fee to help pay for the sports stadiums' upgrades by claiming it would harm families and sports fans. However, the "sin tax" hurts everyone who buys tobacco and alcohol.
Cleveland is one of many cities that taxes its citizens to pay for sports stadiums.
Deadspin.com notes that the State of Minnesota is paying $348 million and Minneapolis is footing $150 million for a new stadium to be used by the Minnesota Vikings.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Atlanta Braves are building a new stadium that will cost residents $300 million, even though Cobb County (where the stadium will sit) has laid off teachers due to a lack of funds.
The new Marlins Park in Miami will cost taxpayers a whopping $3 billion, according to Forbes. The Marlins are shooting themselves (and taxpayers) in the foot by slashing payroll for their players, which likely means they won't have the top talent.