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Lawmakers want to keep $150M out of Portland Diamond Project's MLB stadium plans

Legislation has been proposed that would repeal a unique Oregon law from 2003 that would earmark $150 million in income taxes from players' salaries to help build an MLB stadium in Portland.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick and a handful of other lawmakers don't want to see any money diverted from the state's general fund for the construction of a Major League Baseball stadium in Portland.

Burdick, a Democrat from Portland, has proposed legislation that would repeal a unique Oregon law from 2003 that would earmark $150 million in income taxes from players' salaries to help build a stadium in Portland.

"Her whole deal was that she didn't like the funding mechanism behind it," said Rick Osborn, Burdick's communications director. "When you do that, it indirectly takes money out of the state's general fund that could be better utilized for education and other priorities."

As first reported by Willamette Week, the proposed Senate Bill 607 would repeal the legislation passed back in 2003, when another effort to bring MLB to Portland was underway. Rep. Tawna Sanchez, a Democrat from Portland, has also sponsored similar legislation in the House.

If the new bill passes, it could be a hit to the Portland Diamond Project, the team that's currently working to bring baseball to the Rose City. PDP had taken the potential funding from the 2003 law — in the the form of bonds of up to $150 million — into account for its long-term stadium plans. Estimates put costs for a new stadium in the $1 billion realm.

PDP spokesman John McIsaac said he was surprised by Burdick's proposal, but the bill's fate won't impact PDP's current efforts.

"That bond does not exist and will not exist until we have a ballpark and a team," he said. "When that happens, that is a very, very easy way to keep from asking for new public money. The long-term ramifications of that bond will help the city and the state immensely. There's a huge ripple effect."

Jody Wiser, executive director of the volunteer-run Tax Fairness Oregon, said her group helped nudge Burdick to put forth the proposed legislation "because there's no logical reason for the public to fund a private" facility like a stadium.

"It has been a common practice that some communities have chosen to do that," she said, "but since we as a state are not even educating our kids, we don't have any extra money."

As to why now and not any time over the past 15 years is the time to repeal the 2003 law, Wiser said any public funding for PDP's stadium efforts needs to be taken off the table.

"They need to stop talking about it as a given," she said. "Now is the time to eliminate it so they know it's not a possibility."

Portland Business Journal is a KGW News partner.

Straight Talk: PDP founder Craig Cheek (Part 2)