Wash. track called "obscene piece of pork-filled corporate welfare"
Talk about going around in circles. Supporters of a proposed NASCAR racetrack near Bremerton told lawmakers on Tuesday the 83,500-seat speedway would create thousands of jobs and — unlike other professional sports stadiums — wouldn't cost taxpayers a dime in the long run.
But opponents painted the proposal as an "obscene piece of pork-filled corporate welfare" that would sully the local environment and create massive traffic problems.
Lt. Gov. Brad Owen called the proposal the best economic-development opportunity he has seen during his 30 years in state politics. But state Treasurer Mike Murphy spoke against it, saying state-funded debt should never be used to pay for private projects.
While Bremerton's mayor called the speedway a "great fit" for his city, other local officials from Kitsap County bashed the proposal.
For more than a year, Florida-based International Speedway Corp.'s (ISC) plan has sparked controversy on the Kitsap Peninsula and divided local political leaders.
Despite the discord, ISC is pushing ahead on legislation that calls for using public money for a little more than half of the track's estimated $368 million cost.
The legislation — House Bill 2062 and Senate Bill 6040 — came up Tuesday for its first committee hearings. Today, the company is bringing NASCAR legends Richard Petty and Darrell Waltrip to Olympia to lobby lawmakers.
Similar to the financing arrangements for Safeco Field and Qwest Field in Seattle, the measures call for creating a public authority that would use locally generated state sales-tax revenue and an admissions tax to help pay for the track.
But ISC officials argued that their proposal is a much better deal for the state than previous stadium tax packages and one floated last week by the Seattle Sonics.
ISC vice president Grant Lynch, who also runs the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama, said the $180 million that his company has offered for the track is more than what any of the other "stick and ball" sports franchises were willing to pay. The company has also agreed to cover any cost overruns. Seattle Times