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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

You didn't build that, but you are helping to pay it off



"We built it" has been a theme and a chant at this year's Republican National Convention, and a variation of it appears on T-shirts available in souvenir shops inside the Tampa Bay Times Forum where the big event is taking place.


Yes, the recasting of President Barack Obama's "You didn't build that" comment has taken on a life of its own. But this year's venue for the convention illustrates the context of Obama's quote -- that government spending on infrastructure and other things helps nurture private investment and entrepreneurship. 

Indeed, this year's RNC would not have been possible without a series of large government (translation: taxpayer) subsidies, and that's not including the $50 million in federal money sent to Tampa for the event.

The Times Forum, then the Ice Palace, broke ground in the mid-1990s as a a National Hockey League and concert venue, at an initial $144 million price tag. The original owners of the Tampa Bay Lightning committed $60 million toward construction costs. Tampa, Hillsborough County and the state of Florida contributed the difference, $84 million, from taxes.

News media covering the event are housed in the taxpayer-financed Tampa Convention Center, opened in 1991 at a cost of $156 million, with refurbishing since adding to the pricetag and the city subsidizing ongoing operating expenses.

Delegates from Massachusetts, where Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was governor, are staying at the Tampa Marriott Waterside, about a third of the cost of which was picked up by the city of Tampa to lure a convention-caliber hotel. And many revelers have taken in meals and entertainment at Channelside, whose private owners enjoy a low-cost lease for the land under it, which is owned by the Tampa Port Authority.

Here's how delegates and other visitors are helping. Those who are staying in Hillsborough County hotels are paying a tourist tax on top of their room costs. That's one of the main sources of government money that goes toward paying off debts to build the Times Forum and Convention Center. State sales taxes (as well as arena ticket surcharges) also go toward the debt payments on the Times Forum.


[Last modified: Thursday, August 30, 2012 8:21pm]


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