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Saturday, Jun 23, 2018
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No new incentive money for spring training teams

TALLAHASSEE — The state won’t be adding money to its spring training incentives this year, but a Senate panel has approved legislation that would make it easier for teams to receive incentives already in place.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, cleared the Senate Appropriation Committee on Thursday and allows incentives approved last year to be distributed over a shorter period of time — 20 years instead of 30 years for one-team facilities and 25 years instead of 37 1⁄2 years for two-team facilities.

Budget chief Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said earlier this week that $4 million in new incentives might be added as an amendment to the bill.

On Thursday, though, he said the amendment was not filed because Latvala’s bill motivates Major League Baseball teams to stay in Florida without the state pitching in new money.

“We feel confident the process we set in place makes us competitive with Arizona,” Negron said. “If it turns out we need to revisit it, we can. There’s a point in which the state cannot continue to put more resources in.”

The bill, SB 1216, now heads to the Senate floor. The House is ready to hear a similar bill, HB 7095, that does not have any spring training provisions and deals only with teams based in Florida, such as the Tampa Bay Rays. The House bill allows teams to apply for state money through a competitive process in which they have to show which has the most worthy project. Similar language is included in the Senate bill.

Last year, the Legislature approved a fund that grants $20 million per spring training stadium over 30 years and $50 million for two-team stadiums over 37 1⁄2 years. Local governments have to match that amount.

Other provisions in SB 1216 include the following:

♦  If the state has approved a facility for one spring training franchise, a local government can apply to use it for more than one team.

♦  If a team relocates before its contract with a local government expires, it must reimburse the state for incentive money the local government has spent. If that government has issued bonds to build a facility, the reimbursement must equal the total amount of state distributions expected to be paid from the date the franchise breaks the agreement through the date the bonds are paid off.

♦  Allows counties to use up to $3 million annually of half-cent sales tax revenues, which is allocated by the state, for a spring training facility. Currently, counties are allowed to use up to $2 million.

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