Phyllis Kahn, a Democratic member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, has come up with a pioneering concept for settling athletes' contract disputes. Kahn, a baseball fan whose district includes the Metro-dome, proposed last week that the state make up some $2 million of the difference separating Twins ace pitcher Brad Radke's contract demand from owner Carl Pohlad's three-year offer. Kahn figures the state's investment would keep Radke in Minnesota. "Brad is the only star the Twins have at the moment," Kahn says. "When he's on the mound, you know you're going to see some beautiful pitching, even if the Twins don't win."
Kahn calculates that the income tax collected on Radke's requested salary of $26 million over three years and the sales tax on the increase in tickets sold when he pitches would help offset the state's contribution. An added return would come in the form of a community asset worth watching, says Kahn, who has long advocated public ownership of the Twins.
The day after Kahn floated her idea, a flood of E-mails and phone calls from Minnesotans opposed to public subsidies for pro spoils killed the Brad Radke bill before it could be introduced. Should a similar bill ever make it to the floor of the statehouse, critics say, opposition will be swift and severe. Says Andy Kim, executive director of Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, "It would make the public's revolt against subsidized stadiums look like child's play."
Kahn might consider the state's intervention necessary to bolster the Twins' bargain-basement payroll, but she doesn't advocate indiscriminate subsidies. "Would I be doing this if it were for John Rocker?" she says. "Obviously not."