[Editor's note -- the following guest column was contributed by Sen. Buddy Carter (R-Pooler).]
As a state legislator, I’m often asked three questions:
- What are you doing to help create jobs?
- What are you doing to help with economic development in our state?
- Without raising taxes, what are you doing to help raise revenues for our state budget?
During the upcoming legislative session, one of the more intriguing issues that will be discussed is the proposal by the Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA) to increase their bonding capacity from $200 million to $300 million in order to participate in the building of a new stadium to replace the aging Georgia Dome.
Critics of the proposal say that this is nothing more than a billionaire football team owner trying to pull one over on taxpayers in order to get a new stadium built for his team.
But is it?
As legislators, we have a responsibility to look at the details of these proposals and make sound business decisions on behalf of the state and in particular on behalf of the taxpayers.
The Georgia Dome was built in 1992 and since that time has been the site of some of the world’s most famous events, including the 1994 and 2000 Super Bowls, the 1996 Centennial Olympics, NCAA Final Fours and countless mega-conferences. It is the home of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons, the SEC football championship, the Chick-fil-A Bowl and Kickoff Classic.
To say that the Georgia Dome has been an economic boost to our state is an understatement. As part of the GWCCA, the Georgia Dome and the Georgia World Congress Center are the 2nd largest economic producer in the state of Georgia. Since 2003 these two venues have had a total economic impact of over $22 billion in our state.
But why do we need a new stadium- what’s wrong with the current Georgia Dome?
Even today, the Georgia Dome is an impressive structure. However, it is showing its age and with other cities building superior facilities, in order for the state to retain prominent events such as the SEC Championship and Chick-fil-A Bowl and Kickoff Classic we need a new stadium.
Also, in order to make us more competitive for additional prominent events, such as the Super Bowl, World Cup and numerous college championships, we need a new stadium.
Then there’s the situation with the Falcons. Their lease will expire when the bonds that financed the Dome construction are paid off in a couple of years. Would they choose to leave? Would another city or other area of Atlanta try to woo them with a new stadium?
And what about the billionaire team owner? Why should the state enter into a public private partnership with him?
A couple of things are lost in the shuffle here. First of all keep in mind that the original Dome was built with 100 percent public funds. The new stadium deal is a public private partnership, with the private sector bearing more than two-thirds of the cost.
And just like the original Georgia Dome, the new stadium will be owned by the State. Only this time the state will not be responsible for capital expenditures, instead we will be guaranteed $2.5 million per year with an annual two percent increase for the next 30 years.
But what about the Falcons and their billionaire owner – won’t they be getting a good deal too? Yes, if everything goes as planned they will – in economic development that’s referred to as a win-win situation.
But why should the state commit $300 million to this project? Couldn’t we use that money on more important things such as education and transportation?
This is probably the most important part of the entire discussion. All the state is doing is allowing the GWCCA to increase their bonding capacity from $200 million to $300 million. The GWCCA pays for these bonds though the hotel-motel tax that is generated in the City of Atlanta and unincorporated Fulton County.
Who pays the hotel-motel tax? People who stay in hotels and approximately 86 percent of the hotel residents in the city of Atlanta are from outside of Georgia.
There is no tax increase for Georgia citizens. This is not money coming from our state budget.
This is economic development. This creates jobs. Most importantly this will increase revenues in our state’s budget, revenues that can be spent on important things like education and transportation.
Investing in our infrastructure and maintaining our capitol city of Atlanta as one of the premiere destinations in the world is a commitment all Georgians share.