Opinion

Should taxpayers insure office buildings and sports stadiums against terrorist attacks?

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,NBA,Timothy P. Carney,Taxes,Terrorism

As you watch the Stanley Cup or NBA finals this week, keep in mind that you, as a taxpayer, are bearing some of the carrying costs of the arenas where the Rangers and Kings are skating, and the Spurs and Heat are shooting.

It's called the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, or TRIA, and the U.S. Senate Banking Committee last week approved a bill to extend the program.

TRIA subsidizes developers and property owners by backstopping their insurance companies in case of a terrorist attack. If an earthquake demolished Madison Square Garden, MSG's insurer would have to pay out the benefit. But if an al Qaeda attack demolished MSG, taxpayers would foot a portion of the bill, and cap the insurers' maximum payout.

(My colleague Joe Lawler describes the program and the political debate here.)

On the House side, Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling -- a stout foe of taxpayer subsidies to the financial sector -- has criticized the program and is aiming to trim its sails. The Senate bill instead has some minor reforms.

As both Lawler and insurance expert Ray Lehmann of the R Street Institute point out, this is yet another fight pitting big business (the insurers and the property owners) against the Tea Partiers.

Hensarling has other fights on his hands -- Export-Import Bank and Fannie Mae -- and so TRIA may get a pass.

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