George Gibbs Center for Economic Prosperity

Day⁠t⁠ona Beach News-Journal: Governmen⁠t⁠ rejec⁠t⁠ed call for ⁠t⁠ax, bu⁠t⁠ publ⁠i⁠c s⁠t⁠⁠i⁠ll w⁠i⁠ns w⁠i⁠⁠t⁠h Speedway

By: The James Madison Institute / 2013

Government rejected call for tax, but public still wins with SpeedwayFor Floridians who feel a compelling need for speed, there’s some good news on two fronts — plus a timely lesson for those who tend to believe that if the government doesn’t pay for a project, it won’t get done.Consider, for instance, a heartening new announcement from the owners of the Daytona International Speedway. During the 2013 Florida legislative session, they sought state tax breaks to help offset the cost of improving the venerable NASCAR facility. Turned down, they’ll pay for most of the project without state tax incentives.Daytona Beach’s bid was lumped in with requests for public funds to improve the facilities of the National Football League’s Miami Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars, plus a request for funds to build a soccer stadium in Orlando.Fortunately, the Legislature rejected this dubious plan to use scarce public funds to benefit prosperous private businesses. This rejection, of course, angered some of the projects’ proponents, particularly Miami Dolphins’ owner Stephen Ross.In a rant after he lost, Ross viciously attacked House Speaker Will Weatherford, telling the Miami Herald that the speaker had “singlehandedly put the future of Super Bowls and other big events at risk for Miami-Dade and for all of Florida.”Ross also claimed that the proposed $350 million in improvements to the Dolphins’ aging Sun Life Stadium would have created 4,000 jobs. Alas, such unsubstantiated claims of massive economic benefits are too often typical of those seeking the taxpayers’ money.Commendably, the NASCAR folks reacted differently. Daytona International Speedway will move ahead with $375 million to $400 million in projected upgrades that the International Speedway Corp. will fund on its own.Kudos to the Speedway!Meanwhile, there is also a promising development for those whose need for speed tends more toward their own personal travel. A private enterprise, All Aboard Florida, has announced plans to build a passenger rail line linking Miami and Orlando — and to do so using its private investors’ money rather than public funds.That’s a welcome change from circumstances surrounding the proposed high-speed rail line linking Tampa and Orlando. Gov. Charlie Crist had embraced the federally funded project, but Gov. Rick Scott wisely scotched the deal soon after he took office in 2011.As for All Aboard Florida, it has announced that it expects construction of the rail line’s passenger terminals to begin later this year and train service to begin as early as 2015. The projected travel time, Miami to Orlando, is about three hours. That’s reasonably competitive, time-wise, with air travel once you add in the “get to the airport early” mandate and the time spent checking bags.Not that this project is risk-free. Of course, if All Aboard Florida flops and goes broke, it’ll be the investors who lose out, not the taxpayers. That’s the nature of free-market capitalism, as opposed to the kind of crony capitalism too often practiced nowadays in Washington, D.C., and the nation’s 50 state capitals. In that easily corruptible model, so-called public-private partnerships too often involve public risk (and loss) vs. private gain for the politically well-connected.As a result of the Legislature’s resolve to protect the public treasury, the pool of potential tax money that was not tapped to improve these sports facilities or to build a dubious high-speed-rail venture can be made available for other purposes. For the taxpayers, that’s a win-win proposition worthy of a checkered flag.Bob McClure is president/CEO of The James Madison Institute, a non-partisan think tank based in Tallahassee.