Gov. Rick Scott’s top priority for the year has been for the Legislature to allocate $250 million (over 3 years) to lure companies to Florida and create thousands of good jobs.
Last week the legislative budget conference committee approved an increase in funding for Visit Florida to more than $90 million to promote tourism. That’s a good thing, but hospitality jobs are low paying and they go away in recessions.
To promote diversification of the Florida economy lawmakers budgeted: zero. Zero to create high-paying jobs in our targeted industries like aviation/aerospace, IT, life sciences, trade and logistics and financial services. Frankly, this is shameful legislative malpractice.
The rationale for this inaction is that they don’t approve of incentives. “Corporate welfare” they call it. The House appropriation chair claims that companies don’t need incentive money to move to Florida or grow jobs here. They should be happy with our workforce and our infrastructure. But that isn’t enough. Our competitor states put up big money for incentives.
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We don’t win on incentives. The other states offer far more in most cases, but we have to be in the game. We cannot unilaterally disarm and still expect to win. And, unlike some other states, we are very conservative with public funds. We do not pay up front, but rather only after the company has created the promised jobs and made the promised capital investment.
Also, it isn’t as though Scott is a profligate spender. He is cautious and always expects a good return on investment.
Working with the great professional staff at Enterprise Florida and Secretary of Commerce Bill Johnson, he has gotten results. When you are successful, it is time to double down, not to cut and run. The Legislature should reconsider and appropriate adequate resources to the Enterprise Fund.
Alan Becker, vice-chair, Enterprise Florida,