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Lawmakers Punt to Full Legislature on Millions in Tax Subsidies for Speedway and Jaguars

| February 20, 2015

Balloons of tax-funded subsidies. (US Navy)

Balloons of tax-funded subsidies. (US Navy)

A much-anticipated decision about divvying up sales-tax dollars to sports-stadium projects was handed-off to the full Legislature on Thursday.

And now, a process that was intended to reducing lobbying may do the opposite.

The Joint Legislative Budget Commission, comprised of seven senators and seven representatives, agreed to move any funding decisions regarding the stadiums — Daytona International Speedway, the Miami Dolphins’ home of Sun Life Stadium, EverBank Field in Jacksonville and a soccer stadium in Orlando — to the regular legislative session.

“I think it’s important that 160 people make decisions of this magnitude, not 14,” said House Appropriations Chairman Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes.

The joint commission, which is primarily set up to deal with mid-year budget issues, requires a majority of votes from each chamber’s delegation for a measure to be approved. Corcoran and at least two other House members on the commission were ready to oppose the stadium-funding requests.

“This is a reversed, perverse Robin Hood,” added Corcoran, who added he will oppose any stadium funding proposals during the regular session. “We’re going to take from hard-working taxpayers and give it to the rich people. I don’t understand that logic at all. Every economist, every study shows there is not any economic development to these proposals.”

Lawmakers last year created a review process to try to reduce the lobbying for stadium-funding proposals. But lobbying efforts increased after the state Department of Economic Opportunity last month forwarded the four applications to the Legislature without providing expected rankings.

Lawmakers have been openly critical about not receiving rankings from the agency and had their own economists later rank the projects.

The move Thursday means that lobbyists will continue to suit up for the stadium projects during the upcoming 60-day session, which begins March 3.

A process designed to reduce lobbying is thrown aside, inviting more lobbyists.

“When you add up the amount that is being invested (in the projects) in Jacksonville, in Daytona, in Orlando and in Miami you’re talking $1 billion,” said Ron Book, a lobbyist for Sun Life Stadium. “That’s what sports economic development is about. It’s about bringing Super Bowls. It’s about Major League Baseball games, soccer all-star games. It’s about bringing concerts, it’s about bringing full entertainment opportunities to the people of Florida that bring sales-tax revenue in, not only on what is being built on the facilities, but what comes afterwards.”

The Legislature in 2014 set aside $7 million in sales-tax dollars that can go to stadium projects this year, but required applicants to go through the review process.

Daytona International Speedway and South Florida Stadium, the applicant for Sun Life Stadium, are each seeking $3 million a year in sales-tax revenues for 30 years for improvements. Orlando has requested $2 million a year for three decades to help pay for the Major League Soccer stadium. Jacksonville, with its application supported by the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, has asked for $1 million a year for three decades.

Because of the uncertainty involving the voting from House members, stadium backers said the commission made a good decision.

“I’m comfortable we’ll come to the right place by the end of the session,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, a former state senator.

Orlando’s planned $110 million downtown stadium was given the top ranking among the four projects by the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research.

Dyer said the commission’s decision shouldn’t delay construction of the facility.

However, Paul Harden, representing the Jacksonville Jaguars, said Field Club renovations, which are part of EverBank Field’s $100 million in upgrades, will remain on hold pending the legislative decision.

“We won’t go forward,” Harden said. “We’ll look for alternative sources, if they’re there. This is a publicly owned building. It’s the city of Jacksonville’s decisions. As far as the football team is concerned, these are the dollars they were planning on spending for the upgrades.”

EverBank Field in Jacksonville was ranked second by the Office of Economic and Demographic Research, followed by Sun Life Stadium and Daytona International Speedway.

Backers of the speedway and Sun Life Stadium projects separately disputed the state economists’ rankings, each claiming that economic and employment impacts of the already-underway upgrades had been overlooked. The backers also contended that each project should have received a second-place ranking.

“We look forward to working with the Florida Legislature as they review and discuss the sports incentive applications before them, and continuing to tell the great story of Daytona Rising (the project) and what it means to the state,” Joie Chitwood III, Daytona International Speedway president, said in a release after the meeting.

The commission’s decision disappointed the conservative-advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, which calls stadium funding “corporate welfare.”

“We expected the LBC to take a real stand on this issue,” Chris Hudson, Americans for Prosperity’s Florida director, said in a prepared statement. “Unfortunately the members decided to punt the issue downfield and we will have to wait and see when and how it will come back up throughout session.”

–Jim Turner, News Service of Florida

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15 Responses for “Lawmakers Punt to Full Legislature on Millions in Tax Subsidies for Speedway and Jaguars”

  1. Nalla C. says:

    I am SICK of my tax money funding these games and hobbies, particularly the non-tax-paying National Football League. If they threaten to leave, call their damned bluff. If they go, good riddance.

    This is tiresome–these gougers do *not* need the money, they’re trying to get the money because they are greedy pigs. Go find another trough to slop up.

  2. Lancer says:

    …and the local businesses whose livelihoods depend on these “games and hobbies”, Nalla…are we to kiss them goodbye too??

    As much as I despise tax monies going to these type of projects…it would be great if FlaglerLive could actually devote a few paragraphs to how much tax revenues are brought in by the stadium and race. How much do stores make from this as well?

    What’s the ROI on this, FlaglerLive?

    • Anon says:

      These smaller businesses could gain from the same kind of subsidies. This is the exact point the article is trying to make. Maybe if the businesses weren’t responsible for healthcare, for example, then these sorts of things would happen less often.

      • What's Happening says:

        They wouldn’t need them if these corporate welfare recipients would simply pay the taxes they’d owe if they didn’t get all their tax exemptions and sweetheart deals.

        In the NFL’s case, they get both, because the NFL certainly profits and yet they’re set up as a “non-profit tax-exempt” entity which is just laughable. Perhaps you’ve got enough high paying jobs to provide to make up for all that lost revenue? Oh, and let’s not even forget the part where the Jaguars can’t even get out of their own way these days, so some of those service jobs have probably already laid off a few people.

        Just wonder what the NFL’s tax bill would be if they weren’t tax exempt? Imagine all the health insurance premiums that money would pay for? LOL!

  3. Sherry Epley says:

    Right on Nalla!

    How outrageous that budgets are slashed for schools and agencies like the Department of Children and Families . . . BUT, somehow there are Millions and millions of hard working tax payers’ money for the highly profitable sports industry! And just what kinds of jobs do they provide? Jobs for over paid, millionaire players/drivers. . . or people parking cars/ selling peanuts. Yeah, there are fans that come to the events and maybe eat at fast food joints, and have a short stay at a cheap hotel. Is that what a state’s economy should be based on?

    We are simply fooling ourselves if we expect our completely corrupt legislators to consider the tax payers of Florida over the perks they receive from the hoards of lobbyists!

    • What's Happening says:

      I seriously do not understand how people can make excuses for the NFL–those people are taking their own fans for a ride too, while they take advantage of everyone in every franchise city in this country. The price of general admission tickets to those games is shameful. The merchandise is grossly overpriced and so are the concessions. And the clown cars that own a piece of the team are laughing all the way to the bank, while their little minions fan out and spread the fantasy about all these great jobs and how the taxpaying public needs to subsidize it while they hang onto their tax-free profits year after year after year.

      SMH. I’m over it. And you and everyone else should be too.

  4. confidential says:

    It is a shame that we have a geographically semitropical beautiful sunshine state with a lack of luster given the insufficient infrastructure. jobs and health care for all amidst a high percentage of poverty.
    That is because the good old boy conservative Floridian network keeps on wasting our tax funds in giveaway’s to the super rich and only over “super greed” as those benefitted families are all listed within the Forbes richest! The excuse is that if we do not want to foot those hundreds of millions their way …”they will take their sports attractions elsewhere” ..I would say, let them and instead invite Formula One and the other Cruise Lines for a fair tax revenue for Florida. These families running these sports have become billionaires on the backs of Floridians, building speedways in other states of our country and purchasing cruise lines allover the world and still have the nerve to ask for more flagging the threat to walk out if we don’t give them what they want. Meanwhile our legislators denied Medicaid and medical prevention to the poor among other necessities including proper funding for DCF etc. Use our taxes for what they are intended; to fund the services we taxpayers need and not to further fund wealth!

  5. #1 Gator Fan says:

    These people pay a lot of taxes so they get a pass. Get over it.

  6. confidential says:

    Gator read about how these billionaire sports venues and cruise line owners, pay zero taxes contrary to your believe and create minimal to none jobs and their very few days a year events, do not generate the big year around revenue that you believe sustains local businesses…

  7. Sherry Epley says:

    A large part of the NFL and other professional sports teams are completely tax exempt:

    IRC 501(c)(6) provides for exemption of business leagues, chambers of
    commerce, real estate boards, boards of trade, and professional football
    leagues (whether or not administering a pension fund for football players),
    which are not organized for profit and no part of the net earnings of which
    inures to the benefit of any private shareholder or individual.

    It goes on to state clearly that the newly merged league could move “forward without fear of an antitrust challenge” and that the league will not lose their exempt status “because it administered a players’ pension fund.” With these clauses, the NFL League Office, now bigger and with more power, weathered the merger storm and remained a tax-exempt, non-profit trade organization.

  8. YankeeExPat says:

    Corporate Welfare………how does this fit into the Free market theory.

  9. m&m says:

    The Jags don’t draw flys to their games. It’s because they stink and have no insentive to improve. They have one objective and that’s to get approval to move to L.A.

  10. David S. says:

    M&M,I agree with you get rid of the jagwads there useless and they suck I would never go to see them play and waste my money.

  11. Lancer says:

    It’s amazing to me how leftists love to spout about “corporate welfare” and never wish to engage debate about the 100+ programs, trillions spent and 5 decades of failure which hasn’t lowered the poverty rate 1 percentage point!

    Crony capitalism is bad. Government picking winners and losers is a bad thing. Guess what else is bad? Keeping people dependent on entitlement programs for a vote.

    You see leftists, when you create a government behemoth, which continuously intrudes into our lives (and you promote) it is the nature of things that it acts in ways that you find reprehensible.

    That’s why we shouldn’t have let it get this out of control to begin with…thanks baby boomers.

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