Senate steps closer to killing Florida’s pro sports incentive fund

Supporters of Sen. Tom Lee's bill call the stadium fund "corporate welfare."

A recurrent proposal to squash subsidies for pro sports franchises is nearer to the Senate floor after a committee stop Wednesday.

The Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development approved SB 414, sponsored by Thonotosassa Republican Sen. Tom Lee.

Lee’s bill would cut the state’s Sports Development Fund, a pot of money established in 2014 to help pro sports franchises pay for upgrades and new stadium construction.

Each facility qualifies for up to $3 million in awards, though some call it a “slush fund” for connected owners.

As described by the Department of Economic Opportunity, the program funds proposed “construction, reconstruction, renovation, or improvement of a facility or acquisition of land to construct a new facility … or improvements for state-owned land necessary for the efficient use of the facility.”

Lee said the $390 million in tax credits under the program have never been released, and the program is an “ineffective underwriting tool.”

Supporters of Lee’s bill, such as Americans for Prosperity, consider the fund “corporate welfare.”

An Office of Economic and Demographic Research report released last year found that through its pro sports incentives programs, the state received about 30 cents on the dollar.

Opponents of the bill include the Florida League of Cities.

Lee’s bill has one committee stop ahead. House companion HB 233, filed by Lithia Republican Rep. Mike Beltran, has yet to have its first committee hearing.


Drew Wilson and A.G. Gancarski contributed to this post.

Staff Reports


  • TED

    February 20, 2019 at 2:46 pm

    NO PUBLIC MONEY for “for profit” professional sports teams or their owners. PERIOD. FINAL. FOREVER!

    Let the damned billionaires and their multi-millionaire boy toys pay for their own places of business!

  • Edward P Steele

    February 21, 2019 at 6:28 am

    We as citizens of Florida which I have been for 60 years and have ten grand children born in Florida and also my mother born and raised in Florida. With all that said we invest in our tourism , this is why we do not pay state taxes. Please get that through your New York thinking heads.

  • Harry Robinson

    February 21, 2019 at 8:13 am

    Our governemnts at the local, States and Federal Levels now costs the taxpayers $7.5 trillion annually and we have 100,000,000 people living at or near the poverty line paying indirectly or diectly over 110 diffent taxes and regulatory fees.

    Before we started increasing the taxes and regulations in the early 19o0s and our governments where small with minimun interventions, we had the wealthiest middle class the world had ever seen. The lack of govenremnt intervenions ushered in the industrial revolution which created the most prosperity worldwide mankind had ever seen. It is obvious to see liberty and free enterprise are essential elements to a properous world.

    Sadly those in government started taxing and redistributing teh wealth like this bill is trying to do for their own special interests and the malinvestment and missallocation of resources is having a profound and tragic affect on our society. The NY Federal Reserve just did a study and determined that 51% of Americans can’t come up with $400 unless they borrow it or sell something they own. No one wants to even keep track of all the foreclosures and bankruptcies that have ocurred ijn the last 20 years.

    Keynesian economics is a failure and it is making the middle class poorer and poorer while wealthy special interests such as sports team owners are trying to pocket the taxpayers money. Think about it. As our government has gotten larger, the middle class has gotten poorer and this proves taxing human labor and property is harmful to our society. The math doesn’t lie. Government cannot determine what is in the best interest of the majority and that’s why Thomas Jefferson has been proven correct. “That govenrment is best which governs least.”

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