From the Marbles - NASCAR

Politics post here. It looks boring, but stick with it. Trust me.

As you've no doubt heard, the U.S. Senate has passed its own version of the bailout bill that flopped so spectacularly in the House earlier this week. Now, the prudent thing to do in such a situation would be to take a close look at why the bill failed, strip it down, streamline it, and calm everyone's fears by making sure it does exactly what it promises to do.

This being Congress we're talking about, though, they naturally did the exact opposite. The Senate larded down (or, as they like to term it, "sweetened") the bill with tax breaks, benefits, grants, loans, and kissy-face promises to pretty much every opportunistic Senator and grasping special interest out there. Business as usual.

Which is where NASCAR comes in. Now, buried way way down in the bill is this particular little tidbit:

    (a) In General.--Subparagraph (D) of section 168(i)(15) (relating to
termination) is amended by striking ``December 31, 2007'' and inserting
``December 31, 2009''.
    (b) Effective Date.--The amendment made by this section shall apply
to property placed in service after December 31, 2007.

What this refers to is a method of depreciation for race tracks that's a handy little tax break. First introduced in a 2004 amendment to 1986 legislation, this tax break is available for "a racing track facility that is permanently situated on land and which during the applicable period is scheduled to host one or more racing events for automobiles (of any type), trucks, or motorcycles that are open to the public for the price of admission." Basically, any place that's a notch over racing in your backyard.

The reason this provision in the Senate bill is significant is because the depreciation element ran out at the end of last year. With this extension, that gives tracks under development -- including the crown jewel of future tracks, the one in New York City -- an extra couple years to get their act together and get up and running.

So, yeah, for NASCAR, it's a nice little perk, but in the grand scheme of things, couldn't this have waited a bit? Did the Senate really need to load down the most important legislation of the decade with the usual self-serving crapola? (Yes, I know the answer. Still, it never hurts to keep asking the questions.) Oh, and it's not like NASCAR is the only beneficiary; movie and TV projects would receive a tax break double that of the race tracks, and restaurants, rum makers, and toy-arrow manufacturers also get their share of the porkapalooza. Your tax dollars at work, friends.

Of course, if this bailout bill does help us get a new NASCAR track faster, we'll all be happy and satisfied, secure in the knowledge that both race cars and Congress will continue to go 'round in circles. (Oooh! Poetic!)

Thanks to NASCAR Editor Jay Hart for help with the research, and thanks to Jay Hart's mom for the initial tip.

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