(The Center Square) – Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin wants the Washington Commanders to relocate to Virginia, but after funding plans fell apart during the last legislative session, the path forward is not yet clear.
“If the Commanders are going to relocate they should relocate to Virginia,” Youngkin recently said while visiting Annandale for a rally geared toward parents, according to ABC 7.
“We are the best state to live, work, raise a family, and have a professional sports team,” the governor continued. “But our legislators have got to do the work. Come back to me with a frame so that we then can negotiate the best deal on behalf of taxpayers. This is a moment where taxpayers have to be represented. And I feel I’m well-equipped to do that. But we need to get our legislators back and that’s not going to happen until January.”
In the last legislative session, House and Senate lawmakers passed separate versions of a funding plan, which eventually fell through after some warnings from economists. Both versions would have diverted 50% of sales tax from the facility and nearby businesses back to the stadium. The Senate would have essentially created a tax haven for the team by also diverting all of the corporate income tax at the stadium back into the stadium and all of the personal income taxes at and nearby the stadium back into the stadium.
Lawmakers initially reported the money was capped and gave inaccurate information about how much funding the team would receive. When the actual details became public, lawmakers backtracked and failed to pass anything. Some lawmakers involved in drafting the bill said they intended to revisit the legislation, but that they would limit the amount of money going directly back to the stadium.
Youngkin did not say specifically what the plan would look like. The Center Square reached out to three lawmakers for comment about whether any plans are in the works. The office of Sen. Scott Surovell, D-Mount Vernon, did not know of any developments and referred The Center Square to Sen. Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax, who could not be reached for comment. Del. Barry Knight, R-Virginia Beach could also not be reached for comment.
Michael Farren, a senior research fellow at the free-market Mercatus Center, told The Center Square that political leaders like to approve funding for these types of projects because it allows them to take credit, but warned that any government funding plan would be bad for taxpayers.
“Politicians benefit at the ballot box and in the approval ratings,” Farren said.
Farren stated that the project itself may be good, but the state funding does not yield a net positive for the economy and usually not even necessary to secure the project. He said that teams often make their decisions regardless of whether governments offer subsidies and that owners are able to cover the costs themselves, but will take subsidies if they can get them.
“It’s likely unnecessary to spend money on subsidies because the Washington Commanders are going to end up where they … want to end up regardless,” Farren added.
Farren noted SoFi Stadium, which is home to the Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers, received no public funding, despite being the most expensive stadium in the NFL: $5 billion. When the Rams left St. Louis, they also had to pay their former city some of the costs of the funding. The Commanders, he said, have only expressed interest in moving to northern Virginia and will likely end up there regardless of whether they receive funding from the General Assembly.