Once again, Florida companies are coming to taxpayers looking for a handout.
The latest examples are Disney World and International Speedway Corp. — two profitable giants that want tax breaks so big, they need legislators to rewrite Florida law.
If the public would simply surrender millions of dollars, companies promise to bring new buildings and jobs.
Well, maybe "bring" is the wrong word, because the companies are already here.
Yes, the incentives game has gotten so out of control that companies no longer simply ask for handouts to come to town, they ask for them when they're already here … and have no plans to leave.
Oh, but these are deals that simply wouldn't happen without taxpayer money, they say.
Frankly, I don't buy it.
I just don't think savvy companies like these are planning ventures so questionable — and with profit margins so slim — that the only way they could make them work is by getting tax breaks.
But let's say I do believe them.
Fine, then cut us in on the profits.
Really, it's a basic business principle: Investors reap the profits.
If you guys want the public to invest in your private business ventures, then you'd better be ready to share the spoils.
And what spoils they are. Disney posted record profits of $4.8 billion last year.
And you're telling me that Mickey needs the public's help to build … a bowling alley?
Yes, Disney wants tax breaks and incentives to build a 100-lane bowling complex.
That seems fair. After all, all of the other bowling alleys in Central Florida got tax breaks.
Oh wait, no they didn't … which is one of the many problems with corporate welfare.
Politicians play favorites, giving subsidies to some business — often the biggest campaign contributors — and not to others.
Still, Disney argues this bowling stadium would help "diversify" our economy.
That claim made me wonder whether Disney spokesfolk sprinkle fairy dust — or snort it?
When people talk about the need to diversify our economy, they mean bringing high-wage jobs to our low-wage mecca — not building 100-lane bowling complex in a city that already has one with 80 lanes. (That'd be Boardwalk Bowl out on East Colonial.)
The specifics for these bills are still being worked out. But, as the Sentinel's Jason Garcia explained, Disney and NASCAR's France family have talked about wanting breaks for everything from corporate-income taxes to sales tax on building materials.
Other profitable companies — Mosaic mining and Florida Power and Light's parent company — have also sought public money to help them with projects they already had planned.
Sure, the supposedly laissez-faire Republicans who run Florida constantly whine about how government should leave business alone. But they're plenty willing to mix public and private business when they're giving away your money to their campaign donors.
And before anyone starts griping about how these incentives are "only" tax breaks, rather than upfront cash, let's be clear about something: Paying taxes is part of living in civilized society.
Taxes aren't some charitable contribution. They pay for everything from the roads, which help customers reach these businesses, to the schools that educate their employees.
And companies all over Orlando and America — small and large — pay them without asking lawmakers to change the rules.
So any corporation that wants special favors from taxpayers should be willing to return those favors financially when the profits come rolling in.
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