Funding Package For Titans Stadium Hits Snag In Tennessee Senate Committee

Photo Credit: Brent Moore / CC

The Center Square [By Jon Styf] –

State funding for a new Tennessee Titans stadium hit its first roadblock on Wednesday when the state’s Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee removed approval for $500 million in bonds from its budget appropriations.

The bond package — which would’ve required $55 million in annual payments — was removed from the budget appropriations through amendments on the bond and appropriations bills after the House Finance, Ways and Means Committee passed stadium funding for both. This means if the House and Senate cannot reach a compromise, the bill will go to a conference committee before the budget appropriations and bond approvals are finalized.

“I think the Titans are certainly a very good asset to the city and the state,” said Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald. “Studies have shown time and again that new stadiums do not significantly increase economic impact going forward. The Titans are worth $2.6 billion and $300 to $400 million a year in revenue … if they need a new stadium, it should built by private entities and not by the taxpayers.”

The proposed $500 million in Gov. Bill Lee’s budget amendment would go along with $700 million in funding from Metro Nashville — sourced partially from a proposed 1 percentage point additional hotel tax — and $700 million from Titans ownership to pay for what is estimated to be a $1.9 billion to $2.2 billion stadium.

The new domed stadium would be expected to open for the Titans’ 2026 season next to the current Nissan Stadium, which would then be demolished.

“I think the public is right to be skeptical of issues like these and I share that skepticism when it comes to public works projects, generally, of this sort,” said Sen. Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville. “I think what we are talking about here, though, this is the only part of this deal that actually does make very good sense economically. Like the dollars just add up. The new revenue that comes pays for this.”

The House committee heard similar amendments from Rep. Jerry Sexton, R-Bean Station, that were rejected.

“Taxpayer-funded sports arenas are a boondoggle, and Tennesseans know it,” said Americans for Prosperity-Tennessee State Director Tori Venable. “We are glad to see the Senate Finance Committee reject this outrageous proposal and resist the urge to build a stadium on taxpayers’ backs. We urge the House to follow suit tomorrow and remove $500 million in stadium funding from their budget.

“If this was such a great deal, private industry would be lining up to finance a new stadium for the Titans instead of forcing it on taxpayers.”

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On the House side, opponents criticized a bill that would allow Nashville hotels to charge a 1% additional hotel tax to fund the construction of the new domed Tennessee Titans stadium.

“It sounds to me with this bill that Metro Nashville’s plan to come up with their portion of this puzzle is to put that on the backs of my constituents, many constituents of my colleagues here — not yours because yours live here — but ours get to pay the bill on behalf of Metro Nashville,” Rep. Chris Todd, R-Madison County, said to sponsoring Rep. Bill Beck, D-Nashville, on Tuesday.

The current hotel tax rate in Nashville is 6% and is added on after regular sales tax, which is between 7.25% and 7.75%. Last year, Metro Nashville reported $48.9 million in hotel tax collections, but a fiscal note estimates those revenues to increase to more than $60 million annually if the bill becomes law.

That would mean the 1% additional tax could raise $10 million per year.

Beck said that the hotel association in Nashville brought the idea of the additional tax on Davidson County hotels and motels to him.

“If we were able to put this together, and it’s still an if, this would bring not only a Super Bowl, WrestleMania, NCAA football playoffs, NCAA Final Four, NFL Combine and significant other economic engines,” Beck said.

All of those events, however, have bidding processes between multiple cities.

Rep. Mike Sparks, R-Smyrna, said that Nashville already has the highest-priced hotels in the country and that it’s nearing the point of diminishing returns.

“So we’re raising taxes to increase revenue for private corporations and in turn would like the state to revert taxes to private corporations, all on the taxpayers’ backs,” said Rep. Brandon Ogles, R-Franklin, said to Beck. “I understand what you’re doing and you have a great heart, but I will not be supporting this legislation.”

Todd added that he believes the state has better ways to spend $500 million than giving it toward a sports stadium for a private company like the Titans.

“If this is going to be such a big win for them, then why wouldn’t they invest some of their money in this versus getting taxpayer dollars from my taxpayers, my constituents, which are going to come to Nashville for various things?” Todd asked.

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The budget appropriations for the Titans stadium passed in both legislative chambers as part of a $52.8 billion budget proposal in the House which includes $82 million for an August grocery tax holiday proposed by Gov. Lee. The proposal also provides $121.6 million to fund a one-year moratorium on vehicle registration fees for all Tennessee residents on personal vehicles and motorcycles.

“It’s the largest tax cut of all the tax cuts that we are offering and it is truly us giving back to Tennesseans for the incredible performance that the state of Tennessee has experienced over the past few years,” said Senate Finance, Ways and Means Chairman Bo Watson, R-Hixson.

The amended budget appropriations also include $9.7 million in funding to cut a professional privilege tax for physicians in both osteopathic and medical disciplines. Watson said that this was part of a continuing process to eliminate all privilege taxes for certain professionals.

The bills also used $11 million in one-time funding to pay vendors throughout the state who collect sales tax, giving $25 per month to vendors with a maximum of $300 per month for a company with multiple stores across the state.

The funding will help those companies cover the credit card sales fees that they are assessed on both sales and sales tax money they collect.

Another line item is a $50 million broadband internet sales tax reduction that holds local governments harmless, meaning it includes $18 million in funding from the state to local governments to account for the impact of the sales tax break.

House Finance, Ways and Means Committee Chairperson Patsy Hazlewood, R-Signal Mountain, said that the proposed $52.8 billion budget sounds high compared to a $42.6 billion proposal for the current fiscal year. With more than $8 billion of federal COVID-related relief, the proposed figure increased to $51.2 billion.

About the Author: Jon Styf, The Center Square Staff Reporter – Jon Styf is an award-winning editor and reporter who has worked in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan in local newsrooms over the past 20 years, working for Shaw Media, Hearst and several other companies. Follow Jon on Twitter @JonStyf.

8 thoughts on “Funding Package For Titans Stadium Hits Snag In Tennessee Senate Committee

  • April 21, 2022 at 5:05 pm
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    Has anyone considered that he Senate “Amendment” stripping that version of the $500 million for the Stadium is simply a ploy to make Sen. Johnson look good, all the while knowing the Senate will “concur” with the House version which in fact has that included?

    Reply
    • April 21, 2022 at 5:19 pm
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      How do you know that? The article doesn’t even mention Johnson. We will see what happens. No real conservative would vote to give $500 to a football stadium – it is a terrible idea.

      Reply
  • April 21, 2022 at 5:10 pm
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    In addition, people coming from across the State and surrounding States for treatment at the various hospitals will be paying into the hotel grab whilst their loved ones are sick and the cost of medical care continues to escalate right along with everything else.

    But we must bow to the God of Football…

    Reply
  • April 21, 2022 at 5:28 pm
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    Great article. Thank you.

    With inflation, rising interest rates, and a likely recession, I don’t see how any sane person would want to waste $500 million of taxpayer’s money on a football stadium. Raise ticket prices – the people who want it should pay for it, NOT every taxpayer in TN. The Titans are already getting all the property taxes and sales taxes in the area. I looked at the revenue projections and they are a joke – obviously made up and NOT realistic – check them out – it is obvious – .

    I’m very disappointed in Gov. Lee. How could any Conservative vote to waste $500 million? I noticed in the article that the Dems are in favor – no surprise. Thanks to the Republicans who oppose wasting $500 million.

    Jeff Yarbro, D-Nashville said > “The new revenue that comes pays for this.” If he is so certain, he needs to guarantee it. What he says is simply NOT true. The revenue projections are obviously NOT realistic.

    TN had better save its surplus money for the tough times we will face. Inflation is 8% – a lot of State employees and teachers will need raises to pay for gas and food.

    Reply
    • April 21, 2022 at 6:36 pm
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      Indeed David, that’s what happens when the voters are foolish enough to vote for a “campaign conservative” that is a creation of his high price campaign management team as contrasted with an individual with an honest-to-goodness conservative track record prior to running for office. In this case 37% of the voters in the Republican primary made that mistake in 2018 regarding the highest office in the state. Please, just say “NO” to No Record Candidates running for high office whenever another reasonable choice is around.

      Reply
  • April 21, 2022 at 11:25 pm
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    No professional sports team should ever be subsidized by the Tennessee Tax Payer . I’m being forced to give my money to an organization that I despise and will never attend any of their Felon League games .

    That crap is nothing but a platform for Politically Correct BS and a way for a bunch of nitwits to be payed exorbitant salaries.

    If they are so great , then why does it require a forced extortion from tax payers to build them another stadium ? Take some of that salary money from the grossly overpaid players and build their own stadium with it or up their ticket prices . PAY AS YOU GO !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  • April 21, 2022 at 11:31 pm
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    It is unconscionable that I would be required to subsidize a professional sports team with my hard earned money .

    I hate professional sports and the Politically Correct morons that use it as a platform to spew their Marxist ideology .

    I don’t support professional sports so let those that do pay for it . Leave the rest of us out of paying for their stadium . Government should never be involved in picking winners and losers .When does it ever end ?

    Reply
  • April 22, 2022 at 11:49 am
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    I hope Sen. Hensley will stick to his guns. The owner of the Dolphins and politicians in S. Florida tried the same time a few years back. When residents protested, the owner threatened he was would consider moving the team out of state. The residents called his bluff and he ended up putting a dome on the old stadium using private money.

    Reply

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