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Follow the Taxes

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07/07/2010

With LeBron James set to address the nation tomorrow night about his free-agency plans — and fellow NBA superstars Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade signing with the Miami Heat — Bill Bradley of the Sacramento Bee suggests there’s an overlooked non-basketball influence on top free agents:

The absence of state income tax in Florida and Texas is a big reason the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks can be active in free agency.

Compare that to the New York Knicks, whose players have to pay combined state and city income taxes of 12.618 percent. That means Amar’e Stoudemire’s five-year, $99.8 million deal with the Knicks is worth about $12 million less than if he had signed with the Heat.

While athletes are taxed by other states when playing road games, they come out well ahead if they live in Texas or Florida.

Yes, these Florida and Texas teams had to have salary cap space to get involved in this circus. Yes, they wanted to improve their rosters.

But think about this: There are five NBA teams in Florida and Texas. Those are the only teams without state income tax. All five are among the most competitive in the league.

It won’t be discussed in news conferences, but state income tax will speak loudly this week.

I wonder what would happen if a LeBron James-type player actually came out and said, “Yeah, I considered the Knicks, but the high income taxes convinced me to go elsewhere.” Would it have any impact on the political culture?

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