Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Fallout From State Stadium Subsidies' "Rank-Gate"

I cringe over tacking the suffix "-gate" onto every mini-scandal these days, but what the hell, everyone else is doing it!

Yesterday, a state economist ranked the four stadium subsidy proposals seeking state funds this year, and no surprise, the new stadium project for Orlando City Soccer topped three renovation projects it is competing against.

What is slightly more surprising, however, was the last-place finish by Daytona International Speedway, a venue that undoubtedly draws more out-of-state visitors into Florida than either the Jaguars or Dolphins, who ranked second and third, respectively.

"We believe that we should be ranked second among the applicants," said DIS President Joie Chitwood III immediately afterward.  "We will send a detailed response in writing to legislative leadership to clarify our score and ranking."

Read between the lines, and DIS will double-down on its lobbying efforts this year, with potentially $90 million (over 30 years) in potential subsidies on the line.

UPDATE: Chitwood issued a letter claiming the state ranked Daytona's application incorrectly and the track would like to correct the scoring.

The irony is that this "competition" was instituted to remove lobbying from the award process and only give state dollars to pro teams that will provide appropriate ROI on the subsidies...which is arguably oxymoronic in the first place.

Meanwhile, even the state's economist who ranked the projects acknowledged the process was flawed and didn't properly take ROI into account.

"The evaluation and ranking criteria treats the incremental sales tax as no more important than any other criteria," economist Amy Baker wrote. "Future ranking criteria should emphasize the economic benefit to the state and attribute points based on increments and levels that are supported by economic reasoning."

We also saw reaction from the Jags, who e-mailed the Florida Times-Union a statement that read, in part, "This is good news for Jacksonville."

UPDATE: The News Service of Florida reports House Speaker Steve Crisafulli said it's "very possible" none of the projects get state money this year.  But he adds members are "being worked on by the interests that have a stake in this."  So much for eliminating the lobbying from the process.  Rumor is the Joint Legislative Budget Commission may meet next week to take up the issue.

Previous coverage:
2/10/15 - State economist ranks Orlando MLS application first
1/30/15 - Lawmakers will do what Scott won't: rank projects

1/29/15 - Gov. Scott stumbles through stadium questions again
1/28/15 -
Stadium bill made it easier for teams to flee spring training
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" subsidy process is no improvement so far
1/25/15 - Teams that get rejected by state renovate stadiums anyway
1/22/15 - Gov. Scott's non-answer answers on stadium subsidies

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