Raleigh, N.C. — A proposal to allow the city of Charlotte to redirect local tax revenues to help upgrade Bank of America Stadium cruised through the House Wednesday with little debate.
Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson and city officials had initially asked the state to contribute $62.5 million – one-quarter of the estimated $250 million bill to improve the 17-year-old stadium. House and Senate leaders balked at the request.
City leaders subsequently asked legislators for a 1 percent increase in their food and beverage tax to generate additional revenue. Lawmakers turned down that request, too.
The final version of House Bill 193 allows city leaders to redirect revenues from Charlotte's existing occupancy and food and beverage taxes, earmarked for the city's Convention Center, to the stadium improvements instead.
The bill would also allow Charlotte to use some of the revenue for amateur sports.
"There are no new taxes on this bill. There is no new revenue, state or local," said sponsor Rep. Ruth Samuelson, R-Mecklenburg. “There are just two new options for the Charlotte City Council to consider for using the revenue they already have.”
The proposal passed by a wide margin on a voice vote, but it had opponents on both sides of the aisle.
Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham, spoke against it.
"I think this is corporate welfare. This is welfare for the Carolina Panthers at a time when we cannot afford, as a General Assembly, to be doing this sort of thing," Luebke said. "There’s just a supplanting of money that would go to the convention center."
Proponents say the bill is needed to keep the Panthers in Charlotte in the long term. Richardson has said he won't move the team elsewhere, but he says the city needs to make itself attractive to potential buyers who might feel otherwise.
The measure now goes to the Senate.