50% tax rate proposed for some sales

January 30, 1992|By Laura Lippman | Laura Lippman,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun Jon Morgan of The Sun's sports staff contributed to this article.

ANNAPOLIS -- A Montgomery County senator wants to set up a 50 percent tax rate -- but only on sales of professional baseball teams for more than $100 million.

"Oh, you mean my Eli Jacobs bill," Sen. Howard A. Denis said yesterday when asked about the legislation, which would give the state half of any proceeds above $100 million if Mr. Jacobs sells the Orioles.

"I'm told -- and economic analysts confirm -- that the value of the franchise is so far in excess [of what it normally would be] because of the stadium," the Republican senator said, referring to Orioles Park at Camden Yards, the new stadium the state is building for the Birds.

A perennial nay-sayer on the stadium, Mr. Denis said he was inspired to file the bill by a report in Financial World magazine last summer that pegged the Orioles' value at $200 million.

One of the report's authors, Michael Ozanian, said that without the new stadium, the Orioles would be worth only $110 million to $115 million.

Other analysts who follow sports franchises say the team is worth the lower amount even with the stadium and the generous lease that goes with it.

Mr. Denis reasons that if the stadium boosts the price, then the state should share in the profits. Mr. Jacobs bought the team for $70 million in 1989.

It is unlikely the bill will ever reach the Senate floor, but Mr. Denis seems to be enjoying himself.

"I get some of my best ideas for legislation while reading the sports page," he said.

The bill is unabashedly limited in its scope, proposing to affect only professional baseball teams. It also requires that the special sales tax be paid within two months, with the money going straight into the state's general fund.

A spokesman for the Orioles, Richard L. Vaughn, said, "We're not going to comment on it."

Mr. Jacobs, a New York investor, said last year he was considering some unsolicited offers for the team. He has declined to comment since.

Today in Annapolis

10 a.m.: House and Senate convene, State House.

11 a.m.: House Judiciary Committee considers bill to raise from 70 to 75 the mandatory retirement age for state judges, Room 120, House Office Building.

1 p.m.: Senate Budget and Taxation Committee and House Ways and Means Committee hold joint tax hearing, Joint Hearing Room, Legislative Services Building.

2 p.m.: House Appropriations subcommittee considers budget of the Criminal Injuries Compensation Commission, Room 431.

There are 68 days remaining in the 1992 General Assembly session.

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