Thursday, January 29, 2015

Gov. Scott Stumbles Through More Stadium Questions

Governor Rick Scott said Wednesday he would leave the stadium subsidy debate up to the legislature following the executive branch's decision not to rank the four applications, as expected.  {Here's the video}
A 2014 law (SB 1216) created a process designed to reduce lobbying and legislative influence on stadium subsidies, but the governor's Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) merely deemed all recently-submitted applications as "complete," and forwarded the four requests along to the Joint Legislative Budget Commission to make allocation decisions.
"The Department of Economic Opportunity put out there announcements yesterday," Scott said. "They put out what they were required to do. I think you probably saw the announcements they put out about what they should be doing; that's what they did."

10 News has investigated questionable claims about return on investment from the four organizations seeking incentives from state taxpayers. In the last two decades, the state has paid $300 million to help fund eight stadiums. The majority of teams that play in those stadiums are owned by billionaires.

Scott, who was once an investor in the Texas Rangers, has been supportive of pro teams and stadium-building. He was reported to have gotten very involved in the legislative debate in 2013, supporting the Miami Dolphins' bid for state tax dollars.

But just as he did earlier this month, Scott offered very little public insight as to where he stands on the issue, or what he is doing to ensure return on investment for Floridians.  Scott said Wednesday he'd "continue to wait for the legislature" to make the tough decisions on sports incentives.

10 Investigates' reported Monday how tax dollars to pro teams are likely to grow significantly this year. And on Tuesday, 10 Investigates detailed the significant campaign contributions the governor and other influential politicians received from the teams that benefited from last year's stadium incentive bill.

The DEO validated the four applications from the Jacksonville Jaguars, Miami Dolphins, Orlando City Soccer, and Daytona International Speedway. This year, the legislature can allocate up to $7 million per year in each of the next 30 years to the applicants; in 2016, another $6 million per year (for 30 years) will be available.

One of the co-chairs of the Joint Legislative Budget Commission, Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Lutz, said Wednesday he is personally "dead-set against" providing tax dollars to professional teams and leagues. But Corcoran, expected to be House Speaker in 2017-2018, said the issue would be hotly-debated since stadium spending has been "near and dear" to the heart of Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando.
Previous coverage:
1/28/15 - Stadium bill also makes it easier for spring training teams to leave
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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