Lightning won't get tax break

Published May 4, 2007

TALLAHASSEE - Mired in a rivalry between two Miami lawmakers, a bill that would have given tens of millions to the Tampa Bay Lightning is headed toward defeat for the second straight year.

"Dead, " Senate President Ken Pruitt flatly said Thursday when asked about the measure. The 60-day session ends today.

A deal partly arranged a few weeks ago would have given a one-time payment of $32.6-million each to the Lightning, Orlando Magic and Florida Marlins.

The nonrecurring money would have fit into the budget.

The initial concept was to provide all major pro teams in Florida $2-million a year in additional sales tax rebates over 30 years, an incentive that acknowledged the economic impact the franchises have. It was also seen as a way to keep them from moving to other states.

But $540-million would be tough to push even in a good budget year, so the compromise was worked out.

The deal, however, never made it out of an appropriations committee. It was stalled when Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, put the bill on hold rather than debate amendments that would have increased the subsidy to $180-million.

Lightning President Ron Campbell said he was disappointed by the news, even as he held out hope something could still change today.

The team had planned to use the money to improve St. Pete Times Forum, where games are played. Campbell said he would push again next year. But, he added, "I just hope they don't vacillate too long before our state loses one of its pro teams to more aggressive suitors."