Lawmakers won't award state subsidy this year

4/20/2004 - Florida Marlins

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida House Speaker Johnnie Byrd won't support a $60 million state subsidy the World Series champion Florida Marlins sought to help offset the planned costs of building a new ballpark.

Byrd said his chamber won't be putting any money into next
year's budget to help the Marlins, even though proponents say it
would prove beneficial to the state's economic development goals.

"We support economic development on good projects," Byrd said.
"I've had a chance to learn a little bit more about the Marlins
issue, and I don't believe that's an appropriate way to invest
taxpayer dollars."

The Marlins wanted $2 million annually over 30 years to help pay
for their planned $325 million, 38,000-seat, retractable-roof
stadium -- something they wanted to have ready in time for the 2007
season. Team officials said they needed the lawmaker support this
year to ensure they met that goal.

"Our quest for state financing is far from over," Marlins
president David Samson said. "There's 11 days left in the session
and a lot of things can change in 11 days."

Samson said the team has chosen a site near the Orange Bowl to
build a ballpark, and that he expected to present a final proposal
to lawmakers in the coming days. He also reiterated that the team
would cover any overruns.

The team has pledged $137 million toward the ballpark, and
Miami-Dade County has committed $73 million -- but that leaves a gap
of $115 million, and the Marlins set a deadline of May 1 to have
stadium funding in place.

Gov. Jeb Bush, who supported the subsidy, acknowledged that part
of the reason lawmakers declined to back the funding plan was
because the Marlins have yet to decide where they'll build the new

"I would hope the Marlins would get the same benefits as all
the other professional sports teams in the state," Bush said.
"But I understand that they started late in the game and not all
of their proposal is finite."