Florida House Not A Fan Of Stadium Funding

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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – It’s still early in the Legislative session, but the four entities seeking millions of dollars from the state for stadium improvements may again have a tough time getting off the bench.

House budget chief Richard Corcoran, a powerful Republican who is next in line to be House Speaker, hasn’t changed his opposition to giving sales-tax dollars to professional sports facilities in Daytona, Jacksonville, Miami and Tampa.

“I don’t think all of us that are 100 percent opposed are changing our position on it,” Corcoran, who also chairs the Joint Legislative Budget Commission, said Thursday after the House floor session. “We’re not fans.”

The Senate remains “open-minded to considering” the requests, said Sen. Tom Lee, the alternative chairman on the joint budget commission.

Lee, who doesn’t support the funding, said Friday there is still time in the session for “horse-trading.” But he doesn’t see much movement right now since “no one’s position’s on those things has really changed.”

Corcoran, who called the issue volatile, also said that the issue isn’t dead — due to normal “games people play” in Tallahassee during the regular session.

“We’ll do our best to stop it,” he said.

The stadium funding issue faded away last year after House members on the joint budget commission, under Corcoran’s leadership, deferred action on the requests several weeks before the start of the regular session.

Lawmakers in 2014 established a new means to deal with the funding requests, which previously were handled through individual bills and the budgeting process.

The change, intended to reduce intensive lobbying, established an annual $13 million pool for stadium work.

The Department of Economic Opportunity is required to determine the return on investment of each proposal and rank the plans by Feb. 1, something the state agency failed to do last year. The agency’s inaction rankled a number of lawmakers, including Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Jack Latvala, a Clearwater Republican who championed the new process.

The agency continues to review the requests and “will make information available to the legislature by the Feb. 1 deadline,” DEO spokeswoman Erin Gillespie said in an email Friday.

For the 2016 session, applications have been submitted by Daytona International Speedway; Buccaneers Football Stadium Limited Partnership for Raymond James Stadium in Tampa; the city of Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Jaguars for EverBank Field; and South Florida Stadium LLC, which oversees the Miami Dolphins’ home, Sun Life Stadium.

The process allows stadium backers to apply for as much as $3 million a year for projects totaling more than $200 million. They can seek up to $2 million a year if construction or improvements are between $100 million and $200 million, and $1 million a year when the work is less than $100 million.

Both the Daytona speedway and South Florida Stadium again are vying for $90 million — $3 million a year for 30 years.

The Buccaneers stadium partnership is asking for $1 million a year for the duration of its 1996 stadium agreement with the Tampa Sports Authority. Jacksonville is seeking the same amount.

The News Service of Florida’s Jim Turner contribute to this report.

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