The Times' Steve Contorno has an exclusive story today (now that the Tampa Tribune doesn't exist anymore) indicating Hillsborough Co. is surging toward the $30M/yr mark in bed tax collections, which would allow it to add the magical sixth cent of taxes on any tourist stay in the county.
That could means another $6M/yr in bondable cash (about $75M total) toward construction of a new stadium. While $75M may be a drop in the $500M bucket, it's a start for cash-starved Hillsborough.
However, that money could go toward a number of other projects, and politicians with baseball on the mind (looking at you, Ken Hagan) don't want you to know it. They're spreading mistruths, suggesting those bed tax revenues can only be spent on tourism promotion (like ad campaigns) or pro sports facilities. This is a lie.
There's a destructive attitude in Hillsborough (and other places) that if bed tax money can't be used on anything important, you may as well give it to pro sports teams. But productive conversations about the county's future require transparency.FACT: Bed taxes can be used for ANYTHING that promotes tourism in a county. Not just sports stadiums. https://t.co/DAwaBo0AWr— Shadow of Stadium (@StadiumShadow) May 4, 2016
Here's just a few of the things Hillsborough's bed taxes have paid for in the past:
- The Tampa Riverwalk
- The Florida Aquarium
- Lowry Park Zoo
- The Straz Center
- Tampa Bay Black History Fest
- Local chambers of commerce
- Arts, as St. Pete has done at the Dali Museum
- Redeveloping Channelside Bay Plaza
- Improving Ben T. Davis - or any other Hillsborough beach - into something tourists might want to visit
- Building a new multi-modal transit center (may require some financial creativity)
- Any major event that draw out-of-towners
- Any other project that increases the number of tourists visiting the county
UPDATE: Here's audio of Commissioner Hagan glossing right over the fact that tourist taxes can go toward any capital project that draws tourists. Then throws out total B.S. number on Steinbrenner Field economic impact.
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