James Taylor - Writer, Policy Analyst, Radio Host, Public Speaker

  1. Sarasota-Manatee Rowing Facility Seeks Millions in Additional Subsidies

    March 30, 2013 by James

    My colleague at Media Trackers Florida, Alyssa Carducci, wrote a fantastic article about millions of state and local taxpayer dollars being wasted on a rowing facility that is costing more money and delivering fewer returns than promised. Here is the full article, from Media Trackers Florida:

    Advocates for a Sarasota-Manatee County rowing facility want $2.5 million in state taxpayer subsidies, just a year after they secured $5 million in Florida taxpayer subsidies by promising state legislators the facility would generate $25 million per year in economic benefits.

    The push to require Florida taxpayers to subsidize the multi-million dollar rowing facility began in 2011, when then-Sen. Mike Bennett (R-Bradenton) filed legislation to require state taxpayers to pay $500,000 to $5 million of the costs for the proposed rowing facility. Bennett claimed the subsidies would more than pay for themselves, asserting the rowing facility would generate $25 million each year in economic benefits. The legislature approved the subsidies but Gov. Rick Scott vetoed them.

    In 2012, Bennett again shepherded a bill through the Florida legislature, requiring Florida taxpayers to hand over $5 million in subsidies to the rowing facility. This time, Scott withheld his veto pen and the bill became law.

    Despite the promises that the facility would pay for itself, rowing facility advocates now seek millions of dollars in additional taxpayer subsidies just a year after securing their generous $5 million subsidy. Legislation championed by Rep. Ray Pilon (R-Sarasota) calls for $2.5 million in additional taxpayer subsidies this year.

    In a troubling development, advocates for the rowing facility report they are $20 million short of the private donations necessary to complete the facility. If the private donations do not materialize, taxpayers will have paid millions of dollars for an uncompleted facility or will be required to pay millions of dollars in additional subsidies to complete the project.

    Rowing facility advocates already squeezed $20 million out of Sarasota County taxpayers for the facility, even before hitting up the legislature for additional funding this year.

    While the facility sinks deeper and deeper into subsidies and shortfalls, facility leaders plunge full-speed ahead on new spending projects. Facility leaders recently announced they will submit a bid to host the 2017 World Rowing Championships. Donn Patchen, director of communications for Sarasota County, told Media Trackers Florida the cost to submit the preliminary bid, including application fees, was $13,400. Additionally, another bid fee of $56,600 is due when facility leaders submit a final bid in May.

    “The May 2013 Final bid submission and payment of submission fee was split between Visit Sarasota County (VSC) and Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB),” Patchen told Media Trackers Florida. Sarasota and Manatee County tax dollars fund Visit Sarasota County and the Bradenton Area CVB.

    In addition to the bid fees, which are non-refundable even if rowing officials reject the Sarasota-Manatee bid, it will cost an additional $6 million to host the Championships. Sarasota and Manatee County elected officials already promised facility leaders a combined $2 million in additional subsidies to defray the hosting costs. Facility leaders will likely petition the county officials or the Florida legislature for additional state taxpayer subsidies to cover the rest.

    Padden told Media Trackers Florida that international rowing officials will rule on the Sarasota-Manatee bid by the end of the year.

    “The FISA [International Rowing Association] Council will make a recommendation to the FISA Congress on August 2, 2013. The FISA Congress will vote on the award of the bid on September 2, 2013 in South Korea. The FISA Congress does not have to accept the recommendation of the FISA Council,” said Patchen.

    Padden claimed 130 million people will watch the 2017 Championships, which is the equivalent of more than 40% of the total population in the United States.

    The park, Nathan Benderson Park, is a collaboration among Sarasota and Manatee counties and private developer Benderson Development Co.

    The park is currently hosting some of the events its proponents promised, but facility leaders say they must undertake further construction to provide the amenities necessary to host events such as the 2017 Championships.

  2. Natural Gas Export Restrictions Are a Bad Idea

    March 16, 2013 by James

    Dow Chemical, Alcoa, and other politically connected companies are engaging in rank hypocrisy as they push for laws to prevent natural gas producers from exporting their product overseas, Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) senior fellow Marlo Lewis explains in an outstanding article on CEI’s GlobalWarming.org website.

    The companies, together forming a group called America’s Energy Advantage (AEA), claim that their “rationale for restricting gas exports is that when gas is not exported but instead is used to manufacture products, it creates “eight times the value” across the entire economy,” Lewis observes.

    After noting that companies relied on a laughably implausible study to support their claims, Lewis argues that even if AEA’s claims were true, the companies’ arguments still fail.

    “Even if … gas turned into chemicals generates ‘eight times’ the economic value of gas sold abroad,” Lewis explained, “such third-party assessments should have no bearing on how companies dispose of their own property. As American Enterprise Institute scholar Mark Perry points out, AEA companies did not invest a dime to develop fracking and horizontal drilling technology, construct the wells, or hire the rig workers, yet they presume to decide what happens to the gas after it’s extracted from miles under the Earth. … AEA’s implicit premise is that central planners have the right, nay the duty, to commandeer private property whenever the resource would add more value in someone else’s hands.”

    Just as importantly, Lewis explains, “Dow, Alcoa, Eastman, Huntsman, and Nucor primarily manufacture intermediate goods, not final goods. As natural gas is an input to them, so their products are inputs to still other companies. … So by AEA’s logic, the government should restrict exports of chemicals, aluminum, and steel to hold down domestic prices and make U.S. manufacturers of final goods more competitive. The ‘public interest’ demands it! I’ll bet my salary against [Dow Chemical CEO Andrew] Liveris’s that he will never, ever agree that sauce for the goose should also be sauce for the gander.”

    Lewis’ full article is available here.

  3. Kerry Brown: Abraham Lincoln Presenter, Attorney

    March 9, 2013 by James

    My good friend and conservative patriot Kerry Brown joined me on Inside Florida Politics March 2, discussing his dual passions portraying Abraham Lincoln and following in Honest Abe’s footsteps practicing law. I hope to have Kerry back on the show often in the future.

    In the meantime, you may wish to check out Kerry’s Abraham Lincoln webpage here, and his attorney webpage here.

  4. Rick Scott’s Dash to the Left Wins Few Friends

    by James

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott learned this week that his dash to the political left is winning him few friends among liberals and the media. To the contrary, his recent embrace of liberal policies offended and chased away many grassroots conservatives who strongly supported him in 2010.

    Read Alyssa Carducci’s full article here at Media Trackers Florida

  5. Survey: Geoscientists, Engineers Are Global Warming Skeptics

    February 6, 2013 by James

    Only 36 percent of geoscientists and engineers believe that humans are creating a global warming crisis, according to a survey reported in the peer-reviewed Organization Studies. Nearly two-thirds of the 1,077 respondents believe nature is the primary cause of recent global warming and/or future global warming will not be a very serious problem. Read the survey results here.