Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon seems to be having a Don Quixote moment with his underdog quest to promote outsized taxpayer financing for a $1 billion new football stadium in St. Louis.
The General Assembly is solidly opposed to the state authorizing big bucks without approval either from lawmakers or a public vote.
Many elected officials and citizens in St. Louis don’t want to chip in for local financing of the stadium, either.
And it is far from certain that a new stadium would be enough to convince St. Louis Rams owner Stan Kroenke to keep his National Football League franchise in town.
Viewing the situation from the relatively calm environs of Kansas City, it appears the Democratic governor is expending a great deal of political capital on a project that, if not a lost cause, certainly faces long odds.
The state’s initial commitment to a new stadium would be $150 million in bonds, which when fully paid off with interest would amount to more than $400 million. The financing proposal also calls for the state to give up $90 million in tax credits, which would be kept by the project developers.
Nixon contends he can commit the bond money without legislative approval because it would come from extending payments the state is already making on the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, where the Rams currently play. Many lawmakers vehemently disagree. They say the General Assembly won’t appropriate the money for the bond payments.
The stadium proposal is creating high drama in both Jefferson City and St. Louis, where an alderwoman has made vague allegations that stadium supporters are engaging in bribery to win favor.
Kansas City’s concern is the amount of state money that would be involved. Nixon’s proposal for a new St. Louis stadium is much more generous than the $50 million in tax credits the state granted Jackson County for the recent renovations of Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums. Local taxpayers put up almost 80 percent of the $575 million required for the upgrades.
Currently, Missourians pay about $12 million a year for the debt and some upkeep of the Edward Jones Dome. Kansas City gets about $3 million a year from the state to help pay the bills for the Truman Sports Complex. That imbalance rankles leaders here.
It’s reasonable for Missourians on the west side of the state to ask what services might have to be sacrificed in an already stretched budget to pay for bond payments and tax credits for a new St. Louis stadium.
Nixon, along with some city and statewide business leaders, contends that all efforts should be made to preserve St. Louis’ standing as an NFL city. A new stadium would revive a downtrodden area of the city and create a bonanza of temporary and permanent jobs, the governor claims.
Indeed, there may be a case to be made for a new stadium. But Nixon should have done more to make it to lawmakers. His insistence on barging forward without a serious effort to overcome legislative resistance might have created an unmovable obstacle.