TALLAHASSEE -- House Speaker Will Weatherford said Thursday he didn't support a plan that could allow Orlando's professional soccer backers secure state tax dollars for a future stadium as soon as this summer.
Both the House and Senate are nearing floor votes on plans to require stadium tax-subsidies to go through a new competition process for annual sales tax rebates where they apply to the state's jobs agency and are evaluated based on their economic impact.
But Central Florida senators, including Sens. David Simmons and Andy Gardiner, along with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and other Major League Soccer backers are pushing a change to the bill to let projects like the future Orlando City Soccer Club MLS team compete for state dollars without requiring the Legislature to later sign off on the tax breaks.
The time difference is critical for Orlando’s $85 million Major League Soccer stadium which is slated to be under construction by 2015. If the project can secure the $2 million annual sales-tax rebate sooner, it can proceed with a larger, $110 million soccer palace with more amenities.
But Weatherford told reporters Thursday he didn't favor the idea.
"I think the Florida House ... is more favorable toward having a fair process where everybody has to go to the Department of Economic Opportunity before they can come back to the Legislature," Weatherford said.
"We just think that's a way to create equity in the system and probably the best policy position for us to have."
Weatherford got lobbied this week on the stadium bill by soccer superstar David Beckham, who wants to build a second MLS stadium in Miami. But he also killed a similar stadium incentive bill last session.
Senate leaders are already expecting the final contours of the package to be decided on the last days before session ends May 2. Dyer this week said the amendment removing the return trip to Tallahassee for stadium projects would be an "end of session" fight.