Two state lawmakers on Thursday called for a better funding plan for publicly funding sports arenas, proposing legislation that would allow New York to purchase a majority interest in a team if public funding exceeds 51% of the cost.
The legislation proposed by Assemblyman Ron Kim and state Sen. Jabari Brisport comes days after Gov. Kathy Hochul announced $850 million in taxpayer funding would be used to help build a $1.4 billion stadium for the Buffalo Bills.
The funding plan, which Hochul later said would include money from a settlement with Seneca Nation of Indians' casino revenue, has been criticized by lawmakers in the state Legislature as the state budget talks remain fluid.
“Governor Hochul has portrayed handing $1 billion of taxpayer money to the Buffalo Bills billionaire owners, the Pegulas, as a necessity for keeping the team in our state," Kim said. "If she is genuinely concerned about them leaving New York, our proposal ensures that the team stays in Buffalo. It would convert any use of taxpayer money by a team to an ownership stake for the public. If they try to take their money and leave, it would give the community and city a chance to keep the team."
Hochul has defended the proposal, pointing to the 10,000 construction jobs it is expected to create. But some lawmakers, who have been pushing for their funding priorities in the budget for issues like child care and mental health programs, have not been convinced.
“We cannot keep giving away public funds to massive corporations and billionaires while getting little to nothing in return for New Yorkers," Brisport said. "It is appalling that a billionaire is attempting to hold hostage a team that would be nothing without the fans who have uplifted it – and funded it – for generations. It’s time to stop catering to the rich and powerful at the expense of everyday New Yorkers.”