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NC House agrees to tweak taxes for Panthers' home

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

North Carolina House members agreed Wednesday the city of Charlotte can spread around local hotel and prepared food and beverage tax revenues to pay for upgrades sought by the Carolina Panthers to its downtown stadium.
    
The full House voted Wednesday in favor of the measure that expands how the city can use its share of particular Mecklenburg County revenues beyond paying for the Charlotte Convention Center to help with renovations to Bank of America Stadium.
    
The bill doesn't raise the prepared food and beverage tax as city leaders originally wanted and generates $34 million less than the team sought from the city. The Panthers want to begin stadium renovations of up to $300 million after next season. Republicans have also said no new state funds should be expected to help with the upgrades.
    
The tax revenues could now be used for the stadium and for amateur sports venues.
    
"There are no new taxes on this bill. There is no new revenue on this bill, state or local," Rep. Ruth Samuelson, R-Mecklenburg, a primary bill sponsor, told colleagues. "There are just two new options for the Charlotte City Council" to consider with money they already receive, she said.
    
City leaders and boosters have been worried that any potential successor to 76-year-old current owner Jerry Richardson could attempt to move the Panthers from Charlotte, where they began playing in 1996 after spending their first season in Clemson, S.C. Samuelson has said any renovations in the stadium would be owned by the city, serving as a potential obstacle to any move by future owners.
    
The bill was thoroughly debated this month in three committee meetings, where both Republicans and Democrats questioned helping what they labeled a profitable NFL team.
    
On Wednesday, Rep. Paul Luebke, D-Durham, called the bill "corporate welfare."
    
"This is welfare for the Carolina Panthers at a time when we cannot afford as a General Assembly to be doing this sort of thing," he said.
    
The measure was approved on a voice vote because it's considered a local issue. The bill now goes to the Senate.

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