Harry Potter gets tax credits for being in a ‘high-crime’ zone?


Tax credits for blighted neighborhoods are pouring into theme parks and resort hotels.

We’ve investigated this controversial program for the past two years; now, a key state leader says the program is not paying off, and it could be repealed.

State legislators passed a bill in the 1990s that granted tax credits to companies that add jobs in areas with extreme levels of poverty, unemployment, physical deterioration, and high crime.

But when politicians drew the boundaries, they included the heart of Orlando’s tourist district.

That’s how theme parks and high end resorts in and around Orlando’s I-Drive tourist district qualify for tax credits intended to help revitalize depressed, crime-ridden communities.

“The intent of this legislation is being abused,” said former Tampa Senator Jim Hargrett, who sponsored the law. “They should feel ashamed.”

After our investigation last year, former House speaker Will Weatherford ordered state investigations from EDR and OPPAGA, and their results are now in.

The legislature’s own analysts found the administration had not been following part of the law by failing to ‘rank and tier’ high-crime zones (as required) until last August.

The state analysis also found the state has not specified how to collect and report crime data, and has not provided enough guidance to local governments, nor required documentation to support these high-crime zones.

The state analysis also found a low return on our investment. It shows for every dollar spent on these tax credits, the state received only seven cents back.

The Chairman of the House Economic Affairs Committee said that needs to change.

“The report we got and the negative return on investment — I think we have a responsibility to look at all options, everything from repeal to structuring it in different ways,” said State Rep. Jose Olivo.

If the state cannot improve the return on its investment, Olivo said it’s the state’s responsibility to do away with it.

Links to state reports:


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