In an effort to bring back professional basketball to Seattle, a coalition comprised of lawmakers, business leaders and grass-roots activists has formed to discuss a possible jock tax that would require visiting professional athletes to pay state income tax for each game in the state of Washington. The funds from the tax would help finance construction of a new facility or renovation of an existing one for an NBA team. From the Seattle Times:

“If someone around here had thought of it a few years ago, maybe the Sonics — not the Oklahoma City Thunder — would be playing in the Western Conference finals. The tax is one of a few ideas being considered by two Washington state lawmakers who hope to bring the NBA back to Seattle. The coalition plans to discuss the merits of a jock tax that would require visiting professional athletes to pay state income tax for each game in the state of Washington.

‘We have different, various ideas,’ Hope said. ‘I’m not exactly sure which one will go forward, but I want to have something done and tangible, a piece of legislation ready to go by January of next year. So that when the Legislature convenes they can start hammering away at this.’

According to an April 12, 2009, article in The Los Angeles Times, the state of California collected $102 million in taxes from visiting athletes in 2006-07.

‘It’s a huge amount of money,’ Hope said. ‘Every time the Mariners and Seahawks go there, they get taxed. But when their players come here, we don’t tax them. To me it’s about equity. It’s about developing a plan to do that and to use that money to bond out for something. What I like about it the most is, it doesn’t cost the taxpayers in Washington state a single dime.’

For jaded Sonics fans still angry after Seattle political leaders agreed to settle a lawsuit that allowed Clay Bennett to move the team to Oklahoma City, it’s the first significant plan from Olympia to bring an NBA team to the area. Jason Reid, who directed ‘Sonicsgate: Requiem for a Team,’ plans to join the task force, and is cautiously optimistic.

‘We’re obviously excited about anyone who wants to bring the issue to the forefront, especially when it comes to someone in government actually representing the effort to bring the Sonics back,” Reid said. “So pardon the pun, but we have a lot of hope in Hope because he’s saying the right things, at least as of now.’”