Opinion

Racetrack plan finds some odd bedfellows

Politics, it is said, makes strange bedfellows.

But imagine yourself, a card-carrying, knee-jerk

somewhat-left-of-center newspaper, waking up one morning snug and warm to find your arm draped over the raspily snoring figure of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation.

GAAAAAHHHH! What did we drink last night? How did

we get here?

The thought is enough to make any halfway liberal editor take the pledge and trudge humbly off to confession. Such was our lot this week, finding the Review aligned with the state’s leading conservative think tank on the issue of public financing for a NASCAR racetrack in South Kitsap.

As reported elsewhere in this issue, the International Speedway Corporation has finally unveiled a long-awaited financing plan for an 80,000-seat racetrack somewhere south of Gorst. To pay for the $345 million project, the ISC wants half the money – some $166 million – to come from bonds backed by the state and repaid through tax revenue. This, from a corporation that by its own financial disclosures is positively rolling in cash and enjoyed a 20 percent revenue growth and record earnings for the second quarter of the current fiscal year. For the six months ending May 31, the ISC’s total revenues were reported at $336.9 million, up from $261.8 million prior.

Not a candidate for a public handout, we think.

Coincident with the financing plan’s release, the Evergreen

folks took a break from their usual mission of bashing public educators to lambaste the idea of a racetrack subsidy. In an opinion piece published on the group’s website and reprinted in the regional media, an EFF policy analyst argued: “If the ISC does not think it can sell enough of its product to cover the expense of a track, what authority does the government have to allow them to force other taxpayers to subsidize the racing business? Compelling other people to pay for the racetrack is contrary to the principles of the free market, because consumers have less money to spend and invest in things they actually want...

“Whatever the merits of ‘job-creation-by-subsidy,’ State Treasurer Mike Murphy identified the true tragedy of giving money to sports facilities. It ‘basically means we won’t be doing something else, because there is a limited amount of dollars.’”

We couldn’t agree more, although for somewhat different reasons than our unusual bedfellows. We’re all for government spending on job-creating projects and programs, provided they contribute something to the common weal – like, for example, public education. With that $165 million subsidy, the state could build four or five new schools. Or spread it around among school districts to hire a bunch of new teachers. Or even give a nice one-time bonus to every single teacher in the state, to say thanks for their commitment to our children and for putting up with nonsense from conservative think tanks.

Certainly, the reader’s list of priorities may differ. The point is, there are plenty of real needs out there -- roads and transportation, health care and social services, public safety --

that our state should be spending money on. A racetrack for millionaires is not one of them.

But jeez, what a morning. Now if we can just slip out of bed

and out the door – quietly, so no one wakes up – it’s off to

church. Never again, we swear.

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