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Economy and Business

Cuyahoga's sin tax for sports facility upkeep is extended for 20 years
Voters reject opponents contention that wealthy team owners should pay the costs

Kevin Niedermier
Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley leads the cheering at the Issue 7 victory party.
Courtesy of Kevin Niedermier
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Cuyahoga County voters passed Issue 7 Tuesday. It extends the county’s sin tax for upkeep of Cleveland’s professional sports venues for 20 years. And as WKSU’s Kevin Niedermier reports, voters agreed the sin tax is the best way to maintain the city and county owned sports facilities.


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Under agreements Cleveland and Cuyahoga County officials struck with Brown’s, Cavaliers and Indians owners about 25 years ago, the local governments must help pay for stadium and arena maintenance and some up-grades. At the pro-sin tax election night party, Cleveland City Council President Kevin Kelley said continuing the tax on cigarettes and alcohol helps keep the city moving forward.

Sin tax is best option 
“What Cuyahoga County voters did was provide a revenue source to pay our capital and debt obligation. And if it didn’t pass we would have to pay it out of our general fund. So Cuyahoga’s voters provided a revenue stream so we can meet our public obligations, and for that I’m very grateful.”

Kelley says the campaign had to overcome opponents charges that wealthy team owners should be forced to repair the facilities themselves. Issue 7 opponents waged a grassroots campaign that received support from tobacco giant Phillip Morris and consumer advocate Ralph Nader. But, in the end, Peter Pattakos of the Coalition Against the Sin Tax, says the heavily funded pro-sin tax campaign was too much to overcome. Though he is glad many voters sided with the opposition.

Sin tax opponents encouraged that many voters rejected extension 
“We’re encouraged that in the early voting, 40 percent of the voters still reject this and understand there is no reason these owners can’t pay the costs of their own businesses when this county has so many problems.”

Opponents proposed adding a surcharge to Brown’s, Indians and Cavaliers tickets to pay for facility upkeep. But Cleveland voter William Maloney believes the sin tax is the best option.

“I voted for the sin tax, I feel it’s very good for the city and county and it’s something we need. I think people may have been misinformed about all the facts and issues regarding it.’

The sin tax adds 4.5 cents to a pack of cigarettes, and 1.5 cents to a 12 ounce beer. The current tax expires next year in September.                                                                                                                  

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