Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

House Sacks Dolphins' $60 M Sales Tax Break

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

House Sacks Dolphins' $60 M Sales Tax Break

Article excerpt

TALLAHASSEE -- With some members calling it welfare for the

rich, the House shot down an Orange Park lawmaker's bill

yesterday that would have given South Florida businessman H.

Wayne Huizenga a $60 million sales tax exemption for the stadium

where his Miami Dolphins play.

The House rejected the measure, billed by Huizenga and Miami

businesses as a way to put his Pro Player Stadium on par with

other ballparks in the state. Huizenga already gets the same tax

break for his Florida Marlins pro baseball team in the same

stadium.

Triumphant House members cheered, gave the thumbs-up sign and

hugged each other after the bill failed 61-50. House members

later tried to revive the bill in a second vote, but that effort

failed 55-55.

"This is the mother of all turkeys," said Rep. Robert Starks,

R-Casselberry. "We give $480 million to major league sports.

This is corporate welfare. Let's stop this thing now."

The bill, sponsored by Rep. John Thrasher, R-Orange Park, would

have amended a state law granting a $2 million annual tax credit

over 30 years to include Huizenga's stadium. Five professional

sports complexes, including Jacksonville Memorial Stadium,

already get $60 million in tax breaks under the law.

The tax credit is given to new professional sports franchises

that include the Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Tampa

Bay Devil Rays and Jacksonville Jaguars. The Tampa Bay

Buccaneers have applied for the credit under another part of the

law.

Thrasher said he sponsored the bill at the request of Huizenga

but also felt that the Dolphins deserved the same break that

other professional sports franchises have received. He also said

Huizenga needed the money to make "fan friendly"

football-related improvements on the stadium.

"There was a lot of demagoguery on the issue. You could say

it's welfare for the rich, welfare, welfare for a millionaire or

billionaire. I don't know what he is," Thrasher said. "Those

were some of the things they said. To me that begs the issue: Is

it true economic development? Then it doesn't matter whether the

owner is a wealthy person or not."

Critics of the bill, however, rapped it as corporate welfare,

and said the money could be better used to boost education. …

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