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Testimony for HB 3606
Thursday, June 12, 2003

Co-chairs Brown and Clarno, and Senators. My name is Howard Lavine. I am Governor Kulongoski's policy advisor on bringing Major League baseball to Oregon.

I'm here today to convey the Governor's support for HB 3606, a bill that will finance up to $150 million of the cost of a major league baseball park, to be located in Portland.

The Governor has been following the progress of this bill closely, and as he told Commissioner Selig in a letter March, he is a long time fan of baseball (this is obvious from the décor of his office), and wants to see the best of the best playing in Oregon.

The Governor recognizes that many Legislators - and members of the public - are asking: Why this bill? And why now?

Let me briefly give you the Governor's perspective on both of these questions.

Although you will be hearing from many experts on the technical details of the HB 3606 - I can tell you that the Governor feels comfortable supporting the bill because of the extraordinary protection it provides to both the State and taxpayers.

His bottom line is this: Building a baseball park in Portland cannot dip into the General Fund or take money away from any government service. Nor can it leave the State and taxpayers liable to bondholders during the term of the bonds.

The Governor's General Counsel, Mardi Saathoff, will be discussing risk issues in her testimony. But I do want to point out that the Governor is satisfied that HB 3606 meets his bottom line requirements.

This is true because of the protections for the State built into the bill - including the fact that the bill requires the State to do absolutely nothing until there is a grant agreement that is approved by DAS and Treasury.

And because the income tax revenue that will be earmarked to pay off the bonds would not otherwise be available for other government services.

The Governor is also looking at the other side of the ledger: How will the people of Oregon benefit from having a Major League baseball team in Portland? This gets to the question of: Why now?

First, this is not a decision that can wait for better economic times. If HB 3606 does not pass, Major League baseball may not come this way again for a generation.

On the other hand, if it does pass, Portland will likely get one or more additional bites out of the baseball apple - even if the Expos go elsewhere.

Second, as much as the Governor loves baseball, he loves his four basic principles of governance - which he as repeated many times - even more. One of those principles is that we must grow the Oregon economy and put people back to work.

So his message to the proponents has been essentially this: "Don't cork the benefits. I'm only interested in what's real." The Governor now believes that bringing a Major League Team to Oregon will mean real economic benefits for all the citizens of Oregon.

There are the 1,500 high wage construction jobs that are very much needed at this time of severe unemployment.

There will be new money for the General Fund after the bonds are paid off - and possibly sooner, depending on how much revenue is collected from the ballplayer's salaries.

It is also possible that taxes paid by the ballplayers on endorsement contracts and investment income will go to the General Fund and be available for other government services.

The Governor wants to increase tourism, in part by branding Oregon as the state with the most enjoyable - and comfortable - summer weather. Bringing a Major League Baseball team here will help us do that.

A Major League team will draw new dollars from outside Oregon, especially Clark County, Washington - and will help stem the outflow of Oregon dollars that are now going to support the Mariners.

This is a significant amount of money. Right now Oregonians make up a large segment of the Mariner fan base.

The Governor is also impressed by the support this project is getting from both business and labor.

This support is no surprise. Take "baseball" out of the headline and what you have is an environmentally clean industry, with an $80 million dollar payroll, wanting to move to Oregon - at no cost to the taxpayers.

Finally, there is the intangible - but Governor believes real - benefit that attracting a team to Oregon will bring a very positive national spotlight to Portland and this great state. We know that Portland is a first tier city; we want the rest of the world to know it too.

Just one personal observation: I worked for the Mayor of Baltimore when Camden Yards was being debated - and subsequently built. Many of the same legitimate questions being raised now - were raised then: Cost, timing, benefits to rural communities.

But Camden Yards turned out to be a spectacular success. And you would be hard pressed to find anyone in Maryland who regrets the decision to build Camden Yards.

Governor Kulongoski believes that if this Committee and the Legislature decide to pass HB 3606, a similar success story will be written here in Oregon.

Thank you.