(p. A11) It’s bad enough that the budget agreement announced Thursday night by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul will shower more than $1 billion of the public’s money on a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills, a billionaire-owned football franchise that competes in the world’s most profitable sports league. But Ms. Hochul has attached conditions to the deal that will drive up the construction cost by roughly 20% and assure that a big chunk of the subsidy will be wasted. That contradicts her claim that she sought to negotiate the “best deal for taxpayers.”
Ms. Hochul is the first New York governor to hail from Buffalo since Grover Cleveland. Her husband is general counsel of Delaware North, the chief concessionaire at Highmark Stadium, the Bills’ current home in suburban Orchard Park. The new 60,000-seat facility is to be erected nearby, on the site of an existing stadium parking lot. Ms. Hochul says it’s a good deal for residents, who are rightly suspicious. So too are economists, whose strong consensus is that taxpayers almost always come out losers in publicly funded stadium projects, which chiefly enrich owners.
In this case, the corporate welfare pork is greased with a costly handout to unionized labor. That’s because of the state’s so-called prevailing-wage law, which effectively mandates that contractors on public construction projects such as schools, roads, bridges and subways pay union-level wages and benefits. Last year, a “source familiar with the negotiations” told the Buffalo News that the project’s $1.4 billion price tag was driven in part by “prevailing wage and union workforce requirements, among other rules.” Exactly how much the prevailing-wage law adds to the stadium deal is hard to know, but it’s likely in the hundreds of millions.
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(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date April 8, 2022, and has the same title as the print version.)