As mascots celebrate Sports Day, teams continue funding battle

Lawmakers aim to get rid of subsidies for pro sports teams in Florida

By Jake Stofan, News4Jax
Headline Goes Here

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Professional sports teams in Florida are in a stalemate with lawmakers after a bill was struck down that would have prevented them from receiving subsidies.

But that doesn't necessarily mean they'll be getting any new money this year.

It was a festive atmosphere for Sports Day at the Capitol on Thursday, but the relationship between lawmakers and the state's pro teams aren't exactly a day at the ballpark.

Sports teams have been receiving as much as $13 million a year -- totaling $390 million over the last 30 years -- from state subsidies.

That money comes out of sales tax revenue, but legislation seeking to cut the funding has run into a defensive line.

Sponsor State Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, said the subsidies aren't justifiable.

“Economic development coming out of sports facilities essentially cannibalizes on other disposable income from consumers,” Lee said. “So instead of playing golf or being at the beach that day, they may be at the game."

Sen. George Gainer, R-Panama City, voted against the Senate bill, saying the option for subsidies needs to remain open.

“If you suddenly became faced with the fact that we might lose some of our sports teams or whatever, we'd certainly have a place to go, have a vehicle for them to remain in Florida,” Gainer said.

But House Sponsor Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral, thinks sports teams shouldn’t have to be incentivized to stay.

“The commitment should be not about the money, but about the fan base and the people that really care about the team,” Eagle said.

Even though the subsidies won’t be officially killed this year, neither the House nor Senate budget has money for them.

So there's a good chance no teams will be receiving money this year, putting the two side in deuce -- advantage Legislature.

“It may not be a program that we can afford to fund this year, but at least if we think it is, it's available,” said Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee.

Both Eagle and Lee said that although they might not have scored a victory this year, they'll be able to get rid of the subsidies eventually.

Copyright 2017 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.