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Scott incentive cash draws rebuke from tea party group

Saturday, April 20th, 2013 by John Kennedy

House and Senate budget negotiators were slapped Saturday by a leading tea party group for beefing up the pool of money given Gov. Rick Scott for luring companies to Florida.

Lawmakers are working through the weekend on settling differences in $74-billion-plus spending plans.

Late Friday, House and Senate conferees agreed to set aside $79.2 million as economic incentive cash controlled largely by the Republican governor — who is actually seeking $173.7 million for the fund.

The Senate had earlier low-balled the House on the issue — proposing a mere $20 million while the House recommended $73 million in its budget proposal.

But the Senate’s sudden turnaround brought a swift response from Americans for Prosperity, the advocacy group founded by the conservative Koch brothers. AFP also warred with Scott last year over his support for legislation advancing alternative energy.

“Hopefully, the Senate will rethink their decision to increase funding for these handouts, a program that amounts to little more than corporate welfare,” said AFP’s Florida director, Slade O’Brien. “Giving out taxpayer funded incentives to companies that are coming to Florida or expanding their existing business is not a proven way to encourage jobs.”

Lawmakers have been citing concerns about such giveways, especially since the recent collapse of the Treasure Coast’s Digital Domain Media Group.

Digital Domain drew $20 million in state incentives — part of $130 million it received in overall government aid. Among the losers was the city of West Palm Beach, which gave the company $2 million to begin a program locally with the Florida State University film school.

The company defaulted on loans and investments last fall, and closed its main operation in Port St. Lucie.


Florida draws C in national survey on job incentive dollars

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011 by John Kennedy

Even as Gov. Rick Scott’s administration acknowledges it needs to improve oversight of job-creation money, a national report Wednesday graded the state’s incentive programs as average in terms of tracking the dollars and creating jobs which bring decent wages.

Scott is seeking $230 million in next year’s budget for incentive dollars for his newly created Department of Economic Opportunity, more than doubling the cash available to lure businesses to relocate or expand in Florida.

But lawmakers have questioned just how well the state can vouch for the $739 million in incentives it has spread across some 1,600 contracts since 1995.

The report by Good Jobs First, Inc., a non-partisan, nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., gave Florida a C grade for its ability to follow the dollars and turn them into jobs.

 ”With unemployment still so high, taxpayers have a right to expect that economic development investments create significant numbers of quality jobs,” said Greg LeRoy, executive director of Good Jobs First. “The days of ‘no strings attached’ are largely gone, but the fine print in many states is still full of gaps and loopholes.”

 Good Jobs’ review found Nevada, North Carolina and Vermont did best in applying job standards to their major subsidy programs. The District of Columbia, Alaska and Wyoming rated worst.

Oversight and performance of Florida’s big five economic development programs placed the state eighth best on the national survey.  Although laws governing four of the five subsidy programs set some kind of wage standard, none require employers to provide health benefits to workers, analysts said. 

“This study provides a roadmap for Florida legislators and economic development officials as they attempt to require more accountability from corporations receiving job subsidies,” said Alan Stonecipher, a spokesman for the Florida Cetner for Fiscal and Economic Policy, which co-released the Florida findings.

The report is here:




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