One more election result from Tuesday, and it’s a mixed one for the Tampa Bay Rays, who saw voters approve a sales tax hike for transportation project that could benefit a baseball stadium, but also elect new county commissioners who may be more opposed to sports subsidies.
The sales tax hike first:
While money from the newly-approved new one-cent sales tax for transportation cannot be used to construct a stadium, it could provide much-needed funds for infrastructure around the stadium. It could also free up other county money to fund stadium-related expenses.
I’ve discussed previously here how broad tax pools can serve as slush funds for development projects, and there’s some concern here that this could happen with the transporation fund as well. Still, it would be tough to use either the money itself or other moneys it freed up for anything more than infrastructure, and a new Rays stadium would need a lot of money for things that weren’t infrastructure, so we’ll see.
Then there are the new Hillsborough County commissioners:
In District 5, Mariella Smith bounced Republican incumbent Victor Crist, who had been open to Hagan’s stadium dealings. Smith told 10News no general revenue funds should be used for a new Rays stadium but kept other possible funding mechanisms on the table.
She has also been critical of the secrecy surrounding the stadium talks.
In District 7, Democrat Kimberly Overman defeated Republican Todd Marks, who said he opposed subsidies for the Rays. Overman seemed more open to the possibility but said it wasn’t a “core issue” to her campaign.
It won’t be easy to get four commission votes to approve a new stadium deal if it involves any county money; conservative Republican Stacy White won re-election Tuesday in District 4, and several sitting commissioners have expressed hesitations about spending money from a tight county budget on a new Rays ballpark.
tl;dr version: Hillsborough may have a bit more money to spend, but it’s also likely to be less inclined to spend it. That December 31 deadline for Stuart Sternberg to opt out of his Tropicana Field lease is getting more and more interesting.