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Hogs at the trough

One of the most lucrative sports empires in the world, NASCAR is asking the hard-working residents of Florida to contribute $75 million in sales taxes toward a new ''NASCAR Hall of Fame'' in Daytona Beach.

The plan is to build a world-class facility that presumably would display acres of blown engine parts and other historic racing memorabilia, attracting hordes of stock-car fans from far and wide.

Nothing wrong with that, except that NASCAR can well afford to build its own Hall of Fame. Last year, it raked in $2.1 billion on merchandising alone.

Competing with the stock-car moguls for subsidies are the Orlando Magic, which wants $99 million for a new basketball arena; Fort Lauderdale and other cities seeking funds to improve their spring-training parks; and of course the long-suffering Marlins, who want a second $60 million tax break to cement a financing package for a new stadium next to the Orange Bowl.

...Florida is already on the hook for half a billion dollars in glorified welfare to 14 pro franchises as well as other sports-related rip-offs -- including $50 million for the PGA World Hall of Fame in St. Augustine and $15 million for the International Game Fishing Association museum in Dania Beach.

You can hardly blame the guys at NASCAR for trying to get in on the action. If taxpayers can be fleeced for stuffed bass and antique golf shoes, why not for 73 old pairs of Richard Petty's wraparound sunglasses?

From Carl Hiassen, on the Opinion page of the Miami Herald (subscription required).