Anna Eskamani targets Universal Orlando tax break

Universal obtained a tax break meant to bring jobs to blighted neighborhoods.

Democratic Rep. Anna V. Eskamani wants to end corporate tax breaks that were intended to help blighted communities but instead have been used by at least one huge company, Universal Orlando.

The Orlando representative, whose district does not include Universal Orlando’s property, has filed a bill that would do away with Florida’s Urban High-Crime Area Job Tax Credit Program, a tax break created more than 20 years ago.

Her House Bill 6043 follows news reporting, notably by the Orlando Sentinel last fall, that focused on how Universal Orlando has been the biggest beneficiary of the program, taking $17.4 million of the $34.8 million in tax breaks the state approved in the program since 1998. Universal Orlando is owned by Comcast Corp., which also owns the NBC TV and radio networks, the Sky networks in Europe, Xfinity, and other media, entertainment, leisure, and technology companies.

Universal Orlando’s theme parks and hotel resorts are near, but not exactly within some blighted urban areas of Orlando. The resort is located between the more prosperous Dr. Phillips community and Orlando’s International Drive tourism corridor.

In a news release, Eskamani contended that even the law’s original sponsors, who wanted to help neglected communities like Orlando’s Historic Black neighborhood Parramore, say the program has been abused.

“Florida is suffering through a deadly COVID-19 pandemic that has been disastrously mismanaged by our leaders in Tallahassee,” she said in the release. “Working Floridians are struggling to stave off evictions and foreclosures, small businesses are fighting to keep their doors open, and some of my colleagues are talking about cutting desperately-needed aid programs because they say we don’t have enough money.

“Floridians need help, and we need to deliver it to them. And one of the ways we can do that is by eliminating wasteful corporate tax breaks like this one that do nothing but pad the profits of politically influential corporations and instead use the money to deliver real relief to real people.”

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


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