County con­sid­ers spe­cial tax for Trump’s Mar-a-Lago vis­its

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY TERRY SPENCER

WEST PALM BEACH, FLA. | Com­mis­sion­ers in a Florida county are so tired of spend­ing money on Pres­i­dent Trump’s fre­quent vis­its to his Mar-a-Lago re­sort that some are sug­gest­ing a spe­cial tax be levied against the prop­erty if the fed­eral gov­ern­ment doesn’t re­im­burse its costs.

Palm Beach County spends more than $60,000 a day when the pres­i­dent vis­its, mostly for law en­force­ment over­time — al­most $2 mil­lion since Jan­uary. Sher­iff Ric Bradshaw says the county was ex­pected to spend $250,000 dur­ing Mr. Trump’s re­cent meet­ing with Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping, the pres­i­dent’s sixth trip to his Win­ter White House in the 12 weeks since his in­au­gu­ra­tion.

County Com­mis­sioner Dave Kerner has sug­gested turn­ing Mar-a-Lago into a spe­cial tax­ing district and im­pos­ing a levy on the re­sort to pay the pres­i­dent’s se­cu­rity costs. Be­cause Mar-a-Lago is in­cor­po­rated as a club, it pays lower prop­erty taxes than ho­tels. It also gets a tax break be­cause Mr. Trump sur­ren­dered de­vel­op­ment rights af­ter he pur­chased the prop­erty from the es­tate of ce­real heiress Mar­jorie Mer­ri­weather Post for $10 mil­lion in 1985.

The 500 mem­bers pay $14,000 an­nu­ally in dues. The ini­ti­a­tion fee was re­cently dou­bled to $200,000. Forbes magazine es­ti­mates the club is now worth $150 mil­lion.

“We’re very hon­ored to have the pres­i­dent here, but at the same time, his travel here is such high fre­quency he’s not visiting Palm Beach County — he’s gov­ern­ing from it,” Mr. Kerner told Money magazine re­cently. “What­ever our pri­or­i­ties are, the tax­pay­ers didn’t pay this money to us to pro­tect the pres­i­dent.”

Mr. Kerner did not re­turn nu­mer­ous calls from The As­so­ci­ated Press to his of­fice.

The sher­iff be­lieves the fed­eral gov­ern­ment will even­tu­ally re­im­burse the county but can’t be cer­tain.

“I had a per­sonal con­ver­sa­tion with the pres­i­dent in Fe­bru­ary, and he un­der­stands,” Sher­iff Bradshaw said. “There is a sys­tem in place and, un­for­tu­nately, that in­volves Congress … and that is not an easy thing to nav­i­gate through. I am sure they will get around to it.”

Lo­cal gov­ern­ments aren’t the only ones com­plain­ing. No so­lu­tion has been found for the 28 busi­ness own­ers at Lan­tana Air­port, a small field for pro­pel­ler planes about 6 miles from Mar-a-Lago. The Secret Ser­vice shut­ters it ev­ery time Mr. Trump vis­its Mar-a-Lago be­cause agents be­lieve the 350 flights it han­dles daily pose a se­cu­rity risk.

Marian Smith, who owns a flight school, said she has lost al­most $100,000 be­cause of the clo­sures. A ban­ner-tow­ing com­pany that op­er­ates from the air­port says it has lost over $40,000 in con­tracts.

Jonathan Miller, the con­trac­tor who op­er­ates the county-owned air­port, said this week that he be­lieves a com­pro­mise will be worked out with the Secret Ser­vice, the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion and other agen­cies that would al­low the air­port to op­er­ate with re­stric­tions dur­ing pres­i­den­tial vis­its.

“The FAA has a strong in­cen­tive to work with us and help get some fund­ing that will put a sys­tem in place that will ap­pease the Secret Ser­vice,” Mr. Miller said.

The cost of Mr. Trump’s vis­its di­vides lo­cal res­i­dents, with the schism often fall­ing along po­lit­i­cal lines. Mr. Trump’s sup­port­ers say any money spent by the county is re­couped through added vis­i­tors lured by the fre­quent ex­po­sure and his vis­its show he cares about the area.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent Trump’s Mar-A Lago re­sort in Palm Beach County, Florida, gets tax breaks as a club rather than a ho­tel and be­cause of the sur­ren­der of de­vel­op­ment rights.

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