Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, who said earlier this week that he’d be introducing a bill to require sports teams to show they actually have a reason to ask for sales-tax kickbacks, upped the ante slightly yesterday by declaring that he doesn’t intend on approving any sports subsidies this year at all:
“Our focus right now is on a process that treats everyone equitably and not writing any checks,” Weatherford said during an interview with The News Service of Florida in his Capitol office.
Currently, the state of Florida pays $2 million a year to the Miami Dolphins
, Jacksonville Jaguars
, Tampa Bay Rays
, Tampa Bay Lightning
, Florida Panthers
, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
, Miami Heat
, and Orlando Magic
in exchange for the teams doing the state the favor of existing. (The Miami Marlins
got left off this list after getting the $2 million a year break for their previous stadium, but did get everything else they wanted
, so no complaining.) Right now the Orlando City Soccer Club
, David Beckham’s as-yet-unnamed Miami MLS expansion team, and the Daytona International Speedway are all lining up to ask for sales-tax rebates as well, but it sounds like they’re going to have to wait — until next year, anyway, when Weatherford will, at the ripe old age of 35, be term-limited out of office. If Weatherford has his way, by then there will be new laws requiring team owners to “go through the process with the Department of Economic Opportunity just like everybody else does that wants to create jobs in Florida” to prove that their projects will provide a return on the state’s investment, though it remains to be seen whether he has a chance in hell of getting it through the state senate, which has historically been much more lenient about this kind of thing.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are planning to build an even more expensive scoreboard than the one included in a previously approved $18.7 million upgrade package, but according to the Tampa Tribune, Bucs owner Malcolm Glazer and his family say they’ll pay for the additional costs out of their own pockets:
“Rather than just do the improvements that were initially budgeted, they wanted to do something more grandiose on their dime,” said Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan, a member of the sports authority board.
Of course, Hagan is the guy who previously said that hosting a single college football championship game would create nearly 2,000 new permanent jobs (after “skimming” some studies on the subject), so we might want to double-check his claims. Unfortunately, the Glazers aren’t talking, so it’s too soon to say whether the “on their dime” claim is true, especially given the complicated funding scheme for Raymond James Stadium maintenance and improvements. Stay tuned.