State lawmakers gave final approval Tuesday to a measure designed to financially facilitate construction of a rock 'n' roll theme park in Eloy.
SB1450 would allow creation of a special district that would have the power to levy a 10 percent sales tax on everything within its boundaries. That would include not only admission to the proposed theme park and all the rides, restaurants and activities inside, but also on money spent at hotels and eateries expected to be built on private land in the surrounding nearly 800 acres.
Backers of the project, dubbed Decades, say that having all those tax revenues is the only way to get people to lend them $750 million for construction of the 144-acre park. Proceeds from the levy would be legally pledged to repay that debt.
Foes had several objections to the concept.
Sen. Ken Cheuvront, D-Phoenix, said he fears that the lenders will sue the state if the park fails.
But Sen. Robert Blendu, R-Litchfield Park, said there are several provisions, both in existing law and this legislation, that ensure that cannot happen.
"All those firewalls are put in place," he said. But Blendu conceded that they could be overturned if a federal judge decides otherwise.
Senate Majority Leader Thayer Verschoor, R-Gilbert, said that if the theme park succeeds, it will create thousands of jobs and generate sales taxes for the state government.
That did not convince Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, who said the state should not be involved in what should be developed and financed strictly by the private sector.
Creation of the district benefits the developers beyond guaranteeing the sales tax revenues.
The borrowing will be done in the name of the district, meaning the bonds are issued by a government agency and the interest earned is tax-free. That makes the borrowing cheaper, as lenders are willing to charge less interest on tax-free bonds.
The measure now goes to the governor.