Senate to debate bill to help pay for Bank of America Stadium up - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Senate to debate bill to help pay for Bank of America Stadium upgrades

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

The NC House passed a bill Wednesday that would allow the city of Charlotte to use its prepared food and beverage tax to help pay for upgrades to Bank of America Stadium.

The bill was on the NC floor for debate for only five minutes, which surprised some Charlotte City Council members who made the trip to Raleigh.

Only one Representative stood up to speak, saying "I will say I think this is corporate welfare."

Representative Ruth Samuelson, who co-sponsored the bill, says she was confident it would pass because "they counted the votes before they arrived" for the House session.

"It was mostly finding out who is for and who is against and why. There were some we were able to change to yes" Samuelson says.

The bill now moves on to the Senate.

Council Member James Mitchell says he believes the Senate will follow the House's lead and pass the bill. Mitchell says attention now shifts to new conversations with the Panthers.

"Now we start having preliminary discussions with panthers. We did not get the first option so the best we have is using convention center funds."
 
Mitchell says the city has to hear from Convention Center officials to see how much of the $119M existing prepared foods tax could be available to shift over to stadium renovations.

The city councilman also WBTV News another possible option.
 
"Mr. Richardson is very committed to keeping the team in Charlotte. So, we won't get a 15 year tether, but maybe we can hope to get an 8 to 10 year tether to keep the team in the city of Charlotte."

The bill passed the House Finance Committee 21-11 on Tuesday. 

The city wants to increase its prepared food and beverage tax by one percent to help pay for the estimated $200 million renovations and upgrades to Bank of America Stadium.

The bill as passed, however, does not allow for an increase in the tax but does allow the city to use all the money from the tax to pay for stadium upgrades.

NC Gov. Pat McCrory has said the he doesn't see any state money in the Panthers' future to help with the upgrades.

The NFL-franchise had sought a combination of city and state money to help them fund the project, which they hoped to start in January of 2014.

Support for the plan eroded when a leaked financial report revealed that despite two losing seasons the Panthers have still taken in million of dollars in profits.

A statewide poll showed that nearly 88 percent of people polled said the Panthers should pay for the renovations with their own money.

Last week, the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce pressed lawmakers to support some kind of funding for the team, saying the team will bring nearly $300 million in tax revenues to the state over the next 15 years.

Charlotte City Council member Andy Dulin says Wednesday's House vote is "a step in the right direction."

Dulin says the House passage will help Charlotte continue negotiations with the Panthers."This is not exactly what we wanted but it's a step in the right direction so I'm pleased" he says.

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