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Owners, players resume talks

New York, NY (Sports Network) - Negotiators for major league owners and the players union met on Monday to focus mainly on revenue sharing and a luxury tax. However, there probably won't be major movement on key issues until next week, when the strike deadline is just days away.

On Friday, the union set an August 30th strike date with both sides resuming talks toward a new collective bargaining agreement. The luxury tax and revenue sharing have become the biggest obstacles to a contract. Owners say the two aren't linked, players say the two must be considered together because they both take away money from the high-revenue teams.

Owners have proposed taxing the portions of payrolls over $102 million (using 40-man rosters and including $9 million per team in benefits), and using a tax rate of 37.5 to 50 percent. Players, not wanting to slow spending that much, have proposed thresholds of $130 million to $150 million, with a tax rate of 15 to 30 percent.

The owners want to raise locally shared revenue from 20 percent to 50 percent and, with competitive balance in mind, have proposed a 50 percent tax on the portion of each team's player payroll that exceeds $102 million. The players are receptive to increased revenue sharing, but are opposed to the tax level proposed by the owners.

Management contends players want the threshold at $130 million for the first year of the contract (2003), with $10 million increases in each of the following two years. The union doesn't want a tax in the last year of the contract.

Discussion of a competitive balance tax represents the biggest hurdle. The owners are trying to revamp an economic system in which player salaries have more than doubled to $2.38 million since the last strike wiped out the final 1 1/2 months of the 1994 regular season as well as the World Series and then delayed the start of the following campaign.

This would be baseball's ninth work stoppage since 1972. In August 1994, the players went on strike. That work stoppage lasted 232 days and lasted into the start of the 1995 season.

The union is philosophically against the idea of a luxury tax and believes that a large tax, plus increased revenue sharing, would form an artificial salary cap, forcing most of the large-market teams to cut payrolls.

There are also unresolved differences on smaller issues such as drug testing, the amateur draft and salary arbitration.

The 2002 season is being played despite the last collective bargaining agreement having expired last November 7. Players have discussed the prospect of a strike because they fear owners will try to change work rules or call for a lockout following the World Series.

If there is a walkout August 30th and the season does not get completed, players would forfeit 16.9 percent of their base salaries. Texas shortstop Alex Rodriguez would lose the most money, $3,557,377.05. A player who makes the $200,000 league minimum would sacrifice $33,879.78.

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