In a sea of coverage about health care and social-distancing measures, there is a big outlier in St. Louis news coverage. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the owners of St. Louis’s Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise received an incentive package to help finance a stadium downtown. The Missouri Development Finance Board approved $5.7 million in tax credits, which is much less than the $30 million originally sought, but honestly, is now the time to be giving away government funds?
Show-Me researchers might argue there is never a good time for government handouts such as this one, but times like these should add even greater scrutiny to government actions. We need to be disciplined about government priorities and reel in needless spending on projects that ought to be privately financed. This deal means that the government will lose out on $5.7 million it could otherwise spend on the needs of Missourians, and maybe more if the stadium garners additional subsidies in the coming years. We can all probably think of a few uses for that money right now.
Sure, the soccer stadium may give us hope for a time when social distancing is a thing of the past, but private endeavors shouldn’t be funded with government incentives. It’s unfair that some developers get tax credits while others pay in full; the government is again picking winners and losers, and this time the owners of the MLS franchise are the winners and taxpayers are the losers. If a project such as this needs government assistance to be built, then maybe it isn’t such a good idea in the first place.
Whether or not you support assistance to the soccer stadium, the question remains: Is this really the time to be carving out special deals for wealthy team ownership when our attention should be focused on so many basic needs?