Legislative panel backs financial guarantee for LA Olympics
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A California legislative panel advanced a bill Tuesday committing the state to cover up to $250 million in cost overruns as part of Los Angeles' bid to host the 2024 Olympics.
The Senate Governmental Organization Committee approved the bill, SB1465, in a 7-0 vote after proponents said they're confident they can produce the games without the serious deficits that have challenged other recent host cities. They pointed to Los Angeles' profitable hosting of the 1984 Olympics.
"We feel very comfortable that the protections set in place will not only ensure a successful Olympic games but a profitable one," said Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens. The bid does not call for new construction, uses conservative budgeting and has insurance protection, he said.
LA is competing with Paris, Rome and Budapest, Hungary, for the 2024 Games. The International Olympic Committee will select the host city in September 2017.
Los Angeles bid committee chairman Casey Wasserman told lawmakers that government support is essential in landing the games, but he said organizers are committed to ensuring they're profitable. As part of the bid, the city must agree to a contract that essentially sticks the city and state - not the IOC - with any cost overruns.
The bill has prominent backing. It was introduced by the top two legislators, both Democrats from the Los Angeles area - Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon of Los Angeles and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon of Lakewood.
But some Republicans question whether supporting the Olympics is the best use of limited money.
"Committing a quarter of a billion dollars of taxpayer money in this way is not good stewardship of taxpayer dollars," said Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, R-Dublin. "Let the LA region and all of its interests try to do the financial guarantee that they think LA might need."
The bill would require the state to handle up to $250 million if construction costs or other liabilities go over budget and insurance policies fall short. The state's contribution would kick in after Los Angeles spends $250 million of its own.
The state provided similar financial guarantees for Los Angeles' bid for the 2016 Olympics and San Francisco's attempt to land the 2012 games. Both efforts were unsuccessful.
The measure goes next to the Appropriations Committee before a vote in the full Senate and then to the state Assembly.
Los Angeles' plan calls for staging events from volleyball on Santa Monica Beach to mountain biking in the Santa Monica Mountains. As was the case in 1932 and 1984, the two earlier years when LA hosted the Olympics, the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum would serve as the centerpiece of the games.