As you may have heard, the state of Michigan is suffering through a landmark financial crisis, ranking 49nd in the nation in unemployment in a recent survey. The state government is in serious debt, and Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm is planning to do something about it.
Her target? Sports (as well as concert and movie) fans in Michigan. She's banking on the notion that Michiganders are too closely attached to their teams at this point to give up going to the games, even if they have to pay more out of their already shallow pockets to continue to go.
And with the Tigers in the midst of a pennant race as both young and old fans discover (and re-discover) a sport that used to be so dear to the hearts of Detroiters, the tax seems even more difficult to bear.
The tax would add up to around $24 million per year on sports tickets for Tigers, Red Wings, Pistons, Lions, Michigan International Speedway, minor league baseball, and hockey events. Tigers season ticket taxes for a family of four would range from $230 to more than $1,200 per year extra and for a similar family Red Wings season tickets would cost between $597 to more than $1,900 per year extra. It is expected to be about 6% overall for each ticket to a game.
You can't fault Granholm for her creativity, but the bottom line is that she is picking the wrong segment of society to mess with this time. The same loyalty and passion that she seems to be banking on to make the tax work if passed are the same traits that are going to make it exceedingly difficult for the tax to pass in the first place.
Sportstalk radio was abuzz with people voicing their almost overwhelmingly negative opinions of the tax right after it was announced, and many hosts including WDFN Sportsradio 1130's popular morning host, Sean Baligian, are leading campaigns to let state representatives know that the tax is a bad idea and should not be passed.
I happen to agree with the protestors, as the tax is a difficult for families that are already cash-strapped in many cases by the economy as the auto companies that are the backbone of the state's economy continue to slash jobs with not enough viable replacement opportunities in sight in the immediate future.
Sporting events are one of the few places where families can get away from it all and bond over a common interest, and ticket prices have already been going up in the past decade and also more recently. Red Wing ticket prices saw increases in the playoffs that made it difficult to sell out the historically packed Joe Louis Arena, Michigan season ticket holders have had to pay extra fees, and Tigers ticket prices have also gone up as a result of the team's resurgence as a contender.
The tax also appears to be short-sighted, because while every major pro team in the state is successful right now except the Lions, it's difficult to predict when these teams might fall off. If they do happen to hit hard times, the tax will make the tickets an even tougher sell in many cases and people will end up staying home in larger numbers. Just because tickets are hot items right now doesn't mean they will be in the future.
Some people argue that the tax is a necessary evil and is a better idea than continuing to cut in other areas, but there has to be something better Granholm can find to tax because the last thing the state needs is for less people to attend sporting events, which are one of the few positives in the downtrodden Michigan economy.
Tigers games in downtown Detroit are helping to revitalize parts of the inner city as sports bars and restaurants are packed on a continuoual basis, and if people have less disposable income because of this tax, they will be less inclined to spend money on things like a meal or beers before a game, not to mention team merchandise in the local and in-stadium shops, and even more money will leave the already poor city of Detroit.
Any way you slice it, this idea seems completely misguided and it's becoming increasingly obvious that sports fans won't stand for it. Fans wishing to voice their displeasure with the tax can go to www.notickettax.com for links on how to contact their state representatives.
And if you're a fan of sports in general from out-of-state who disagrees with this tax, Michigan fans could use your support as well. If the tax is somehow successful in Michigan, it just might set a dangerous precedent and lead to taxes in neighboring states as well in a time when sports ticket prices are already on the rise to begin with.