Friday, March 9, 2012

Lessons From the Legislature: Strong-Arming Incentives, MLS Money

If you didn't see how Florida State Senator JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales, single-handedly strong-armed his way to creation of a new university that nobody else wanted, it's an interesting case study in how a powerful politician can defy the will of the voters, his fellow lawmakers, and even the governor.

It's also a similar study in how unpopular stadium deals can get pushed through even when everyone else is against them. Lobbyists in Tallahassee are taking in-depth notes on this one.

Also interesting is an earmark I stumbled upon in the 389-page (so far) Florida budget expected to be approved later today.

On page 275 is a $1 million allocation to the Central Florida Sports Commission for "securing the Major League Soccer combine and spring training commitment."

Disney lobbied for the incentive.

According to the Orlando Sentinel, the $1 million expendature came from "Rep. Mike Horner, a Republican from Kissimmee who oversees the (House's) spending on economic-development programs."

"Let's call this what it is: goofy," Alan Stonecipher, an analyst with the Tallahassee-based Florida Center for Fiscal and Economic Policy, which advocates for low- and medium-income taxpayers, told the Sentinel. "There's no justification for the Legislature to give money to professional-soccer teams while taking money from children's hospitals, the families who depend on them, universities, college students and other services vital to the well-being of Floridians."

It's hard for this reporter to imagine MLS bringing $1 million in economic impact to Florida, but then again, Disney wouldn't be where it is if didn't have imagination.

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