St. Louis Gov’t To Milk All-Star Game For Cash

St. Louis, Missouri is a miserable place to be in the middle of summer, even in years when the Mississippi River’s not threatening to flood its banks. Temperatures rise regularly to the upper 90s, as do the humidity levels. Large swarms of flying insects (including mosquitoes) make even the shortest of outdoor walks miserable, if not painful. Even larger swarms of enormous red-clad hilljacks from southern Illinois and the inner wilds of Missouri eat their way through the city on the way to their annual Busch Stadium pilgrimages. Oh, and don’t get mugged.

Fat St. Louis Cardinals fans

(Is this what they mean by Show-Me State?)

If all that wasn’t unpleasant enough for visitors, at least most of us don’t have the St. Louis city government (motto: “60% Population Decrease Since 1950″) trying to take our hard-earned and ever-decreasing work bonuses away from us. Unfortunately, the same can’t be be said for the players selected to the 2009 MLB All-Star Game in St. Louis, who stand to lose a chunk of their All-Star bonus to The Man…even if they don’t play in the game.

Now, usually, this sort of thing isn’t a big deal. Pro athletes pay income tax on the money they make while playing road games. The difference is that the money players make for the All-Star Game is due to contract incentives; it’s not regular MLB income. To hear some people tell it, that makes a huge difference, according to the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH:

University of Georgia associate professor Joel Maxcy, who studies sports economics, says a player could make a strong argument against the city’s position on taxing bonuses. “They’re not being paid to play in that game explicitly,” Maxcy said. “They’re given a bonus for being selected.”

That’s the stance taken in Pittsburgh, which hosted the All-Star game in 2006. Pittsburgh has a 3 percent “usage fee” on the salaries of visiting athletes and entertainers, but officials ruled the bonuses were performance incentives, not pay for actually appearing in the All-Star game.

In other words, it wasn’t earned in Pittsburgh, and it can’t be taxed there, said Tim O’Donnell, with the Pittsburgh Finance Department. “Put it this way: To get selected, you’d better be playing good beforehand,” O’Donnell said.

That’s a darn good point; no wonder the city of Pittsburgh has been going through a renaissance period while cities like St. Louis struggle. For most All-Star athletes, their All-Star bonuses represent a miniscule sliver of their annual pay, and it would be silly to challenge St. Louis’ authority to tax it. But it still seems like kind of a bush-league move to milk every dime possible out of people, even the wealthy. Leave it to the tax man to get people to sympathize with multi-millionaire athletes.