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 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 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,” Kerner told Money magazine recently. “Whatever our priorities are, the taxpayers didn’t pay this money to us to protect the president.”
Kerner did not return numerous calls 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,” 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 Trump visits Mar-a-Lago because agents believe the 350 flights it handles daily pose a security risk.
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.
Trump’s supporters say any money spent by the county is recouped through added visitors lured by the frequent exposure.
His critics say the visits illustrate his hypocrisy as he frequently slammed President Barack Obama’s trips, even though they were less frequent and didn’t burden any single community.