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State Sen. Shirley Smith: Cleveland Teams Should Only Get Sin Tax Money If They Win

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Cuyahoga County residents are being asked to renew the sin tax there to help pay for improvements at the pro football, basketball and baseball facilities. But as Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports, one state lawmaker running for Cuyahoga County executive says those teams should have to perform well in order to get that money.

Friday, January 24, 2014 at 4:50 pm

Democratic State Sen. Shirley Smith said die-hard Cleveland sports fans have been disappointed by their professional teams for too long, noting they haven’t won a championship since 1964.

She said now Cuyahoga County voters are being asked to renew the sin tax for repairs and improvements at FirstEnergy Stadium, Progressive Field and Quicken Loans Arena. But she said before tax dollars are doled out for state-of-the-art improvements on pro sports facilities, taxpayers deserve to see a return on their investment.

"If the teams don’t do well, what are we paying for?" Smith said. "We are investing to make sure that people are getting a return on that investment."

Smith said performance-based metrics are not uncommon when tax dollars are invested in other private businesses, and asked why should professional sports be any different.

In an email to ideastream Friday evening, Nancy Lesic -- a spokeswoman for the campaign to renew the sin tax -- responded that the teams would like to win, too. She wrote that renewing the tax would pay for sports facilities that belong to the public.

“The proposal to renew the alcohol and cigarette tax would provide a means to satisfy the public’s lease obligations and protect the investment in the facilities they own for decades to come," Lesic wrote.

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