This Arena Plan Will Be Even More Complicated

Part of the perceived beauty in last year's (ultimately failed) attempt to build a new Kings arena using public and private funds was the relative simplicity. The county was going to levy a quarter-cent sales tax increase for 15 years; half of the money would go to the arena, the other half to other community projects; the Kings would be assured to stay in Sacramento for at least 30 years. Simple, right?

If the Cal Expo plan moves forward, it will not be so easy. Why? The state government's getting involved. If you paid any attention to the state budget proceedings -- the ones which ran something like two months late -- you'll understand why this is worrisome.

Senate Bill 282 is the key here. SB 282 allows Cal Expo (a state property) to enter into lease agreements with outside operators and sell bonds on behalf of construction projects at the grounds. These new tools -- incredibly important for any real Cal Expo plan -- come with the understandable regulation. The bill creates a new state authority to oversee these agreements, requires a master plan for the facility, requires consultation with the county and city over new projects, and -- here's the big one -- "requires the master plan to be submitted to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee upon completion." I could very well just be a worry wort -- the bill says nothing about needing the stamp of approval from the budget committee, just the new authority (of which we'll assume for simplicity sake will be on board with Cal Expo improvements). But when I see "budget committee," I panic.

Something I didn't know before: Cal Expo initiated this bill. That was a vague assumption before, but yep, Cal Expo wants to be redeveloped. That's a great sign going forward.

Right now, the bill is awaiting Senate approval. It passed the Assembly and every committee easily, and the only thing up against it right now really is time. I cannot imagine the governor blocking it given its noncontroversial nature; I'd expect it all to be wrapped in another day or two, depending on how other matters in the Legislature go. Bear in mind this bill is extraordinarily important for the Cal Expo plans to take shape -- its passage is heavily favored, but its failure would be disastrous, I think. And running out of time = failure.

Meanwhile, Henry Abbott at TrueHoop has some good thoughts about arena financing and the... lack of honesty that usually takes place. I pray all parties in the Sacramento situation come to the table this fall and winter with nothing but honesty. Don't repeat the biggest mistakes of last year, and we'll all be a whole lot closer to getting it done.

UPDATE: Sen. Cox's legislative director just emailed to say SB 282 should go to vote today before they head home. Expect an update when I find out what happened.

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