Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Florida Lawmakers Increased Stadium Handouts Even as State Economists, Budget Experts Caution Against It

My latest for WTSP-TV goes a little more in-depth into what I first reported last April: Florida lawmakers made it easier for Grapefruit League teams to break their agreements with local cities and counties.

Governor Scott - and most House and Senate members - signed off on last year's stadium bill (SB 1216) despite the Senate's own Commerce & Tourism staff warning it would have an "indeterminate negative fiscal impact" on spring training economics.  Spring training support just happens to be the only sports incentive that state economists concluded had a positive return on investment.

In 2014, the Senate committee's fiscal analysis warned changing the rules on spring training subsidies would make it easier for professional teams to collect tax dollars, as well as allow them to more-frequently come back to the table to ask for more money.

The analysis also points out SB 1216 makes it easier for Grapefruit League teams to break their leases by limiting the damages they'd have to pay to leave.

Nevertheless, the bill was signed into law last summer.
Senator Jack Latvala, the sponsor of SB 1216, told me he stands by the need to incentivize pro stadium projects, but ended the interview abruptly after four questions.
Previous coverage:
1/28/15 - Campaign contributions fuel pro teams' incentives
1/27/15 - Group want to end tax help for pro stadiums
1/26/15 - Fla's "new" stadium subsidy process is same as old, except more tax dollars awarded
1/25/15 - Teams renovate stadiums anyway, even when they don't get state tax dollars
1/22/15 - Gov. Scott's non-answer answers on stadium subsidies

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