The Classic “Reverse Robin Hood”

Is anyone sick and tired of giving away tax dollars to private business for dubious returns that only seem to benefit the uber-wealthy owners in the end? I know I am. If you can’t make it on the returns of your own hard work, why should government subsidize you with mine?

Locally, Daytona’s Forbes-listed France Family is getting increasingly close to their slice of the millions in state sales tax rebates professional sports complexes in Florida are eligible to receive.  This week the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) determined that professional sports stadiums, to include the newly renovated Daytona International Speedway, now qualify for even more tax funded corporate welfare.

In 2014, in response to unprecedented lobbying efforts by billionaire owners of various sports franchises around the state, legislators changed the manner in which public funds for stadium improvements are allocated by creating a pseudo-competitive process.  Under the change, owners are ostensibly required to demonstrate job creation and economic growth that wouldn’t happen without the infusion of tax dollars.  In effect, this would allow state funding only for projects with the greatest return on investment.

But who judges the competition?   The Scott administration?  The DEO, a governmental “economic development” bureaucracy lead by a Scott appointee who has so far refused to even rank applications for funding as required?

Didn’t Jacksonville Jaguars owner and billionaire tycoon Shahid Kahn “donate” $250,000 to Rick Scott’s political action committee “Let’s Get to Work” during his re-election campaign?   Now, the Jaguars EverBank Field receives $2 million annually in state tax dollars under the same funding scheme sought by the France family.  Now that’s a return on investment!

Wait, didn’t the City of Jacksonville just borrow $45 million to underwrite upgrades to that very same EverBank Field?

Sound familiar?  You bet it does.

Let’s face it, Rick Scott never threw an incentive dollar that didn’t in some way benefit him or his wealthy cabal of influential insiders, and this latest smoke-and-mirrors scam is no different.

In the interest of full disclosure – I’m not a race fan.  Never have been.  I just have a fundamental problem when my hard-earned tax dollars are used to fund billionaires.  Call me loopy – but it just rubs me wrong – I’m the kind of guy who needs to see actual, physical benefits for money spent.  Theoretical pies in the sky don’t do it for me anymore.

(Listen, if you’re a race fan, that’s cool. Please don’t try to change my mind. I’ve lived here most of my life, been around it, etc. I just don’t get it.) But what I do understand is the sport seems to have a diminishing fan base by any measure (mine is seeing an enormous number of empty seats whenever I’ve seen television coverage from tracks around the nation).

In her excellent piece on the topic in the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Eileen Zaffiro-Kean found at least one voice of reason in Chris Hudson, state director of Americans for Prosperity – Florida:

“In 2015, lawmakers stood strong against handing out public money to privately owned sports teams, and we implore them to continue to put their constituents ahead of special interests,” Hudson said, “DEO is making some fatally risky assumptions that these activities would not have taken place without the incentive money, especially considering that all three applicants have already started undertaking their renovations, and some are almost completed. Government is not a bank and should not be at the disposal of wealthy sports franchises to enrich themselves on the backs of taxpayers.”

Indeed.

Perhaps I’m wrong, but explain the rationale in committing $90 million in state tax dollars over the next 30-years to prop up what we already support with millions of dollars in City/County subsidies? (Remember that measly $40 million we handed over for Daytona One just last year?)

I mean, when is enough, enough? Where does it end? For the life of me, I’m just not seeing the return on our investment in the communities, on the street – at the grassroots – you know, where the funds originated in the first place.  Can our elected officials really continue to tax the working people of the State of Florida for the benefit of the most wealthy privately-owned enterprises in the world?

In my view, perhaps the most telling aspect of the Volusia County Council’s action on the $20 million “Grant” to the Daytona One project is the fact they had to take a vote on the award twice. Yep.

Seems they forgot to hear public comments before the first vote.

I don’t make this up, folks. . .

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