Angelos' joint tax plan catches players' interest

October 05, 1994|By Peter Schmuck | Peter Schmuck,Sun Staff Writer

Orioles owner Peter Angelos has an idea that could help produce a compromise in the lengthy baseball labor dispute, and he apparently has gotten one side to listen to it.

The problem is, it is the members of the Major League Baseball Players Association, not his fellow owners, who have been receptive to an imaginative revenue-sharing plan devised by Angelos.

He suggested during a recent meeting with union director Donald Fehr that the players play a part in revenue sharing by agreeing to pay a small percentage of their aggregate salaries into a revenue-sharing pool. It just might be the least painful way to satisfy ownership's thirst for a significant financial concession from the union . . . if the owners still are interested in a negotiated settlement.

"It deserves some attention," union associate general counsel Gene Orza said yesterday. "We know that it is a well-intentioned effort. The question is whether it would have any other [ownership] support."

It is a touchy situation, one that sources say has put Angelos in a very uncomfortable position, and one that he strongly refused to comment upon yesterday. He already is at odds with many of the owners and does not want to give the appearance he is in league with the union.

The Angelos plan calls for the players to phase in a 3 percent tax on their salaries and deposit it into a joint account to pay for revenue-enhancing projects. The owners would go ahead with the revenue-sharing plan they already have devised, and the result would be a large revenue pool to provide seed money for stadium construction and renovation.

Union officials say the players association is interested in examining any proposal that would satisfy the owners without putting a hard cap on players' salaries. The owners may be less interested in a settlement, since they have the option of declaring a negotiating impasse and imposing the salary cap unilaterally.

"We've said all along, when they stop talking about salary cap, salary cap, salary cap, they'll get receptive ears no matter what they are talking about," said Orza.

Fehr, who is in Los Angeles on a speaking engagement, would not comment on his meeting with Angelos or the proposal, which is a variation on the ownership tax plan the union proposed last month in a last-ditch attempt to reach a compromise that would save the postseason.

The players proposed a plan under which the owners would pay a 1 1/2 percent tax on payrolls and revenues to help subsidize struggling small-market teams, but the owners rejected it, claiming that it did not transfer enough money and did not go far enough to address their need to control costs.

The Angelos plan shifts the tax to the players, who would contribute about $30 million per year (based on baseball's $1 billion annual payroll) to the joint effort. That, combined with the money set to be transferred between clubs, would create a sizable revenue pool -- perhaps big enough to seed construction of new stadiums in every struggling market by the turn of the century.

It is a complex concept that sprang from an idea proposed by Angelos much earlier in the labor dispute. He tried to convince the other owners that it would make more sense to use the revenue-sharing pool to encourage stadium construction rather than simply to transfer money to the small-market clubs, arguing that upgraded facilities would solve the revenue deficiencies of many struggling teams.

That proposal was not taken seriously and this new twist also figures to be ignored, at least in part because Angelos has alienated many of the owners with his outspoken criticism of their hard-line bargaining strategy.

Even if his idea might help bring an end to the protracted dispute, the fact it came from Angelos and might be considered by the union may make it unappealing to the owners.

No one is saying whether Angelos' proposal will ever find its way into the stalled collective bargaining talks, but there is a chance that negotiations could resume soon. The owners Monday proposed a 45-day freeze on all off-season business, during which both sides would return to the bargaining table.

Union officials have yet to respond to the proposal, but Fehr indicated again yesterday that they are willing to resume negotiations whenever the owners want.

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