2008_12_stads.jpgThe Yankees have opened their wallets and committed $243.5 million to two players this week. That’s nothing new for the club, who routinely lead the league in payroll by a wide margin. Coincidentally, the team also went to New York City this week and asked for $259 million in tax-exempt bonds to finish their new Stadium in the Bronx. This is on top of original financing of the $1.3 billion deal, which was also done almost entirely with tax-exempt bonds.

Meanwhile in Queens, the Mets, whose payroll is modest in comparison to the Yankees but still among the highest in baseball, have also received plenty of tax-exempt financing for their new stadium. On top of that, they will receive $20 million a year from Citigroup, an entity that U.S. taxpayers had to bail out a few weeks ago, for the naming rights to the new building.

In this current economic climate, the actions of both teams are offensive. It is bad enough that they have raised ticket prices to levels that ordinary fans can’t afford. But with huge deficits on the federal, state and local levels, their use of tax-exempt financing deprives the public of desperately needed revenue.

In light of this and in the spirit of the holidays, the Yankees should withdraw their request for additional tax-exempt bonds and sell regular bonds in the marketplace. It will cost them more, but they certainly can afford it. As for the Mets, they cannot in good conscience take $20 million a year from Citigroup and they should find a new partner to sell the naming rights to.

Economic times are tough—thousands of people are losing their jobs every week. Baseball is a wonderful game, but it should not take away from the public coffers. The Mets and Yankees have already received huge subsidies from the public. They don’t need any more.