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Education Secretary Betsy DeVos could mean more Florida charter schools, a lot more

Betsy DeVos, whose children never attended public schools, may soon lead the nation’s Department of Education. Assuming she is confirmed, care to take a guess what Florida public education will look like four years from now?

Perhaps former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who is DeVos’ biggest cheerleader, can provide some insight. He wrote a stirring endorsement of her in Tuesday’s USA Today, coinciding with her hearing before a U.S. Senate confirmation panel.

“Instead of defending and increasing Washington’s power, Betsy will cut federal red tape and be a passionate advocate for state and local control of schools. More importantly, she will empower parents with greater choices and a stronger voice over their children’s education,” Bush wrote.

“In the two decades that I have been actively involved in education reform, I have worked side-by-side with Betsy to promote school choice and put the interests of students first. I know her commitment to children, especially at-risk kids, is genuine and deep.”

Let’s dissect those words.

First, the biggest federal overreach in education was the No Child Left Behind program signed into law in 2002 by Jeb’s brother, President George W. Bush. It had strong bipartisan support in Congress and from the business community, which argued that U.S. public school students were falling behind those from other nations in math and science.

In the name of “accountability” for schools, NCLB mandated a battery of standardized tests for students. It also allowed students from poor-performing schools to transfer to ones with better overall test results.

There were other federal demands on local school districts, including offering free tutoring to students in need. Of course, the money that was supposed to pay for that never quite materialized in the federal budget, and many schools still struggle to provide that service today.

“Accountability” testing has become a raw spot for teachers, who can face reprisals if low-performing don’t improve.

By not “defending and increasing Washington’s power” we would assume DeVos would defer more education power to Florida. That may not be much help. Besides the federal mandates, Florida tacked on many other tests, leading to teacher burnout and complaints they were only “teaching the test” to bored students while Republicans touted charter schools as the answer.

In the next four years, Florida undoubtedly will have many more than the 652 charter schools currently serving more than 270,000 students. That is an increase of 134 charters and about 90,000 more students since Rick Scott took over as governor in 2011.

Public school teachers and administrators complain loudly that some of those charters don’t have to meet the same standards they do and don’t have to accept problem students.

Charter advocates counter that many financially secure people already can (and do) opt out of public education by sending their kids to expensive private schools.

Tampa’s highly regarded Jesuit High School, for instance, charges nearly $15,000 in tuition, plus other fees. Tampa Prep High School charges more than $22,000 a year in tuition, although it also offers needs-based financial help for those who can’t afford to pay full freight.

Offering charter alternatives to students who couldn’t think about getting into schools like that is only fair, advocates say.

It’s a bedrock Republican ideal: private business is better than government programs, and private education (or charter schools) can be a good alternative to public schools in many cases.

Class, let’s review: School “choice” means less money for public education. Hillsborough County, the nation’s ninth-largest school district, already is grappling with severe budget problems. That presumably will get worse.

We will see more private charter schools – probably a lot more.

That will be done over the wailing and teeth-gnashing of Florida Democrats (like that matters, given their general impotency these days) and the state teachers’ union.

Florida Republicans will celebrate that victory with particular vigor.

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Donald Trump inauguration a special moment for Brian Ballard

This isn’t Brian Ballard’s first inauguration, but it will likely be one of his most memorable.

Ballard, the president of Ballard Partners, is one of several Floridians expected to attend President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration this week. And while his schedule is flush with lunches and galas, he’s most looking forward to the moment Trump takes the oath of office.

“The swearing-in, for me, is going to be the cool part. It’s almost hard to comprehend and put into words. It’s going to be a hugely impactful moment,” said Ballard. “Seeing him take the oath and the government becoming Trump government, which is hard to fathom even for me. It’s going to be so exciting and emotional.”

For Ballard, that moment will also mark the culmination of months of work behind the scenes to help send Trump to the White House.

A top fundraiser for Sen. John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012, Ballard served as finance chairman for Trump’s campaign in Florida. Days after Trump won the presidency, he was selected to serve as one of the finance vice chairs on the Presidential Inaugural Committee.

The two men’s relationship goes beyond politics. Ballard served as the The Trump Organization’s lobbyist in the Florida Legislature for several years.

But Ballard wasn’t all in with Trump from Day 1. He initially supported former Gov. Jeb Bush, signing on early and raising thousands upon thousands of dollars for the former governor and Right to Rise, the super PAC that backing Bush.

He later shifted his support to Sen. Marco Rubio, saying the Bush campaign’s decision to attack the Miami Republican didn’t sit well with him. Once he joined Team Trump, Ballard emerged as one of the New York Republican’s top advisors.

There have been rumblings Ballard might be nominated for an ambassadorship, but he has dismissed them. With a multi-million construction project underway at the corner of Park Avenue and South Monroe Street and a full roster of clients ahead of the 2017 Legislative Session, Ballard appears to have plenty of things to keep him busy in Florida’s capital city.

But that isn’t stopping him from enjoying the festivities and celebrating with friends.  Ballard and his family planned to travel to Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. Once there, the schedule is filled to brim with events.

A black tie dinner was scheduled for Tuesday evening to kick off the official festivities. A lunch-hour reception is scheduled for Wednesday, followed by a dinner to honor Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

There’s a leadership luncheon Thursday, and the “Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration,” a public event at the Lincoln Memorial. That evening, you might be able to find the Ballard family at a candlelight dinner.

When Trump raises his right hand to take the oath of office Friday, Ballard will be there. And he and his family will be on hand later in the evening, this time decked out in tuxedos and ball gown for the inaugural ball at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

And that is only a piece of Ballard’s schedule.

“It’s incredibly filled with events,” said Ballard, who last attended an inauguration nearly 30 years ago for President George H.W. Bush’s inauguration. “Every night there’s parties before and after, there’s lunches every day. I’m getting a lot of invitations.”

One other event definitely on his calendar: The Florida Sunshine Ball hosted by Gov. Rick Scott and First Lady Ann Scott. The inaugural ball, according to the Miami Herald, is being sponsored by Let’s Get to Work, Scott’s political committee.

“This is unique because of the president-elect and our relationship,” said Ballard. “You think of people who get sworn in as president as (someone) who is bigger than life, not someone you know very, very well. Knowing someone and seeing him take the oath of office, I’ll never experience (that again).”

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Rick Scott to host jobs summit in Orlando

Gov. Rick Scott will focus on jobs during a summit in Orlando next month.

Scott is scheduled to host a jobs summit on Feb. 2 and Feb. 3 at the Caribe Royale in Orlando, according to an online invitation. The event, which was first reported by POLITICO Florida, appears to be similar to an education summit the Naples Republican hosted in 2016.

According to the invitation, the event will bring together “Florida’s top business leaders, economic developers, educators and community leaders” to discuss ways to “shape the future of Florida’s economy to create good, high-paying jobs for all Florida families.”

Scott first mentioned his plans for an economic conference back in September.

“I will be hosting an economic summit with economic development leaders and job creators from across the state to discuss how we can bring even more opportunities to Florida. Florida undoubtedly has a lot to offer to out compete other states for jobs wins,” he said in a Sept. 29 statement. “Our business climate, low taxes, education system, workforce, transportation infrastructure and even the weather are all variables that companies look at when considering locations to move or expand. But, we cannot lose sight that economic incentives are an important part of this toolkit.”

The summit comes just one month before the start of the annual 60-day Legislative Session, where economic development and job growth is expected to take center stage. Last year, Scott said he would request $85 million for economic incentives to bring jobs to Florida.

While Scott is a supporter of incentives, he’ll face opposition in the Florida House. The House blocked an effort to create a dedicated funding source for incentives during the 2016 legislative session, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran has said he does not support incentives.

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Stephen Bittel for Florida Democrats, what do you have to lose?

Over the weekend, Florida Democrats elected Miami rich guy Stephen Bittel to lead their party. The choice was controversial and left many members screaming that Bittel is the wrong man at the wrong time.

They have their reasons, I guess.

But, let me ask a simple question:  Whom would be the right person?

The political cosmos has been trying to send a message for years to Florida Democrats. They haven’t been listening.

They have lost five consecutive races for governor (or, put another way, they haven’t been in control of the governor’s mansion in this century). Republicans also control both chambers of the Legislature. Republicans pass whatever laws they want, many of which trample on Democratic ideals. All the Dems have been able to say is, “May I have another?”

This has happened despite the fact Democrats have long held the lead in the number of registered voters in Florida (that number, by the way, is shrinking).

It takes a special something to have turned such an advantage into what is essentially political irrelevance in Tallahassee. Democrats used to console themselves because they delivered the state’s electoral votes to Barack Obama during his presidential campaigns, but they couldn’t even keep that trend going last November against Donald Trump.

So, to borrow Trump’s own slogan and apply it to Bittel: What have you got to lose? At least the guy seems to have some energy a willingness to engage in the fight.

“Contentious elections are reflective that there are Democrats all over Florida that are passionate, committed to coming together, moving forward together to win elections. So contentious is good. It means you care,” Bittel said after beating four other candidates with more established track records.

He has a point there. Florida Democrats have “contentious” down to a science. What they haven’t shown is any evidence that they have a realistic game plan for returning some political balance to the state.

Bittel made his mark by donating and raising large amounts of money for Democratic candidates. While he told reporters Saturday at the Democratic gathering in Orlando that he is not a billionaire, as was reported, he obviously is a person of substantial wealth and energy.

Democrats? Listen up: You need energy. You need passion. You need a sense of purpose. And most of all you need to explain, in clear words, why you’re better for the state than Republicans.

Democrats deluded themselves into believing voters would never elect Rick Scott, but they didn’t understand the beautiful simplicity of his “Let’s Get To Work” message. They talked themselves again into believing that surely voters wouldn’t re-elect Scott.

Now, Scott likely is coming for Bill Nelson’s U.S. Senate seat in a couple of years, and in Adam Putnam Republicans appear to have a strong gubernatorial candidate ready to make his run. This kind of ballot box domination should send a message that doing things the same ol’ way is a losing strategy for Democrats.

So when Bittel talks about greatly expanding the staff at the state Democratic headquarters in Tallahassee and, as reported in FloridaPolitics.com, promising to “ …  grow this party to a size and strength that has never been seen before,” Democrats should be at least a little invigorated.

That is, assuming they still remember what that feels like.

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Florida Dem. congressional members to hold rallies for ACA today

The U.S. House of Representatives is poised to vote Friday on scrapping the Affordable Care Act, two days after the Republican-led Senate voted to do so after hearing from President-elect Donald Trump that they should act quickly to repeal the law.

The nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said earlier this month that repealing President Barack Obama’s signature health insurance law in its entirety would cost roughly $350 billion over the next decade. Republicans say a good Obamacare replacement strategy would reduce government spending, but they have not agreed on a consensus plan.

Democrats are planning rallies on the ACA Sunday, including many of Florida’s most prominent members of Congress.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Alcee Hastings and Ted Deutch will be hosting a rally Sunday at the Sunrise Civic Center in Sunrise at 2 p.m.

In St. Petersburg, Charlie Crist will hold an event at Advantage Insurance Solutions at 833 22nd St. South at 12:30 p.m.

And in Tampa, Kathy Castor will be headlining a rally in front of the Tampa Family Health Center at 7814 N. Dale Mabry Hwy.

Castor held a press event in Tampa earlier this week, where she told reporters that she does believe that Democrats can work with Republicans in Washington on making some improvements to the ACA without throwing it all away. She mentioned working on controlling the costs of pharmaceuticals and bringing greater competition in those areas of the country that have seen exponentially large premium increases as two viable examples.

But while some congressional Republicans are publicly expressing concern about moving too fast on repealing the law without an adequate replacement, the new president made clear during his news conference Wednesday that he wants the GOP to act swiftly, as per his campaign promise.

We will be filing a plan,” Trump told reporters about his Obamacare replacement. “It will essentially be simultaneously.”

That statement “just killed” GOP leadership’s “repeal and delay” approach to the ACA, said the head of Families USA after Trump’s statement.

“This presumably ends the Republican congressional leadership’s irresponsible attempt to repeal the ACA without any guidance about what would replace it,” said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA. “This no doubt reflects the growing concerns among many people, including a growing number of Republicans, about the dangers of the ‘repeal and delay’ approach.”

Castor also wrote to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy this week in an attempt to rebut some claims Gov. Rick Scott made to him about how the ACA is working — 0r not working — in the Sunshine State.

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Tale of 2 parties: Florida GOP high, Dems low ahead of 2018

The state Republican and Democratic parties met two miles from each other Saturday, their first meetings since Donald Trump carried Florida in November’s election, but the atmosphere and enthusiasm were worlds apart.

As both parties chose their leaders, it was easy to see which has more confidence heading into an election cycle when the governor’s office and all three Cabinet seats will be open. Republicans were aglow in victory after Trump stunned many political observers by winning the state Barack Obama carried in 2008 and 2012. At the same time, Democrats held a contentious election to choose a new chairman with little talk about this past election.

“How good does this feel? We defied the mainstream media, we defied conventional wisdom, defied the pollsters,” Republican Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam told GOP county chairs. “Right across town, Democrats are having their election and they’re not feeling near as good.”

As both parties prepare for 2018, Republicans are focused on how to build off the momentum Trump built with voters who traditionally haven’t been part of the political process while Democrats elected wealthy real estate developer and major party donor Stephen Bittel as chairman in hopes of ending two decades of futility at the polls.

“Donald Trump got a lot of people off of the couch and got them involved. It is our job at the Republican Party of Florida to harness all of that passion, all of that energy, and keep them in the game,” said state GOP Chairman Blaise Ingoglia, who was easily re-elected. “And when we do, and mark my words we will do it, we will cripple the Democrat Party for a generation.”

After the Democrats elected Bittel, a group of protesters stood outside the meeting room holding signs that read, “SHAME,” ”This is not the party of the people” and “People over $$.”

Still, Bittel tried to paint the best picture of the party’s future.

“We have had an under-resourced operation in Florida for a long time. That changes, starting today, and we will build a different kind of party, I’m a different kind leader and we will change things,” Bittel said. “I grew up in Florida in an era when we won everything. I’m looking forward to that era again.”

But Bittel, 60, grew up more than four decades ago, and there’s a new generation of Democrats who have rarely seen victory.

Florida hasn’t elected a Democrat as governor since 1994. They’ve lost 14 of the past 15 Cabinet races. And despite Democrats’ success in passing a ballot initiative that requires political districts to be drawn in a way that doesn’t favor parties or incumbents, Republicans maintain huge majorities in the Legislature and hold 16 of Florida’s 27 U.S. House seats.

Republicans appear better situated heading into a critical state election. Republican Gov. Rick Scott and the three GOP Cabinet members, including Putnam, are leaving office because of term limits. Also in 2018, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson is seeking a fourth term, and it’s widely thought Scott will challenge him in what could be Nelson’s toughest re-election yet.

But despite under-performing again in 2016, Democrats think 2018 can be different. Democratic strategist and former state party political director Christian Ulvert pointed at several pluses. First, Nelson, the one consistently successful Florida Democrat since 2000, will be on the ballot.

“This year, we have a potential for Bill Nelson setting the tone, to really set the stage from the top down,” Ulvert said.

He also said the party has a rich field of popular city mayors who could be on the ballot for statewide races, including Fort Lauderdale’s Jack Seiler, Tampa’s Bob Buckhorn, Miami Beach’s Philip Levine, Orlando’s Buddy Dyer and Tallahassee’s Andrew Gillum.

Putnam, who is likely to run for governor, warned Republicans that despite their successes, the party cannot become complacent.

“We can’t get arrogant and cocky and lose our way,” Putnam said. “We can’t take anything for granted.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Brian Burgess: Adam Hollingsworth appointment could be blip on Rick Scott’s legacy

As his second term in office winds down, Rick Scott should be considering his legacy as Florida governor, particularly if he wants to run for the U.S. Senate in 2018.

It’s that same legacy that makes Scott’s recent decision “bizarre,” at least in the eyes of The Capitolist’s Brian Burgess.

Burgess refers to Adam Hollingsworth, Scott’s former Chief of Staff, who the governor named this week to the University of North Florida board of trustees.

As Burgess writes, the appointment “predictably created a wave of justifiable outrage,” one which could needlessly jeopardize both the reputation of Florida’s University System and Scott’s legacy.

Hollingsworth’s earlier admission of academic fraud – lying about a public relations degree from the University of Alabama in 1990 – makes him, in the view of many (including United Faculty of Florida UNF Chapter President  John White), ineligible for a position in academia.

“It seems to me someone should be disqualified from overseeing or evaluating the value of the degrees that we grant at UNF if they lied about having one,” White told the Florida Times-Union. “Granted, that was a long time ago, but it seems to me it is an egregious affront to what we stand for at this university

Yes, the unwanted attention did force Hollingsworth to resign. But Scott’s penchant for dropping people from his circle who generate any bad press – the latest example being Visit Florida’s Will Seccombe – leaves many scratching their heads over Hollingsworth’s placement at UNF, as opposed to a less controversial board appointment.

Hopefully, this will remain just a minor blip on Scott’s legacy, which Burgess is ardently defending.

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Rick Scott savages Barack Obama’s Cuba policy one last time

The ongoing war of words between Florida Gov. Rick Scott and President Barack Obama is continuing until Obama’s last day.

Friday’s installment: a gubernatorial excoriation of Obama’s overtures to the Communist island nation, including this week’s cessation of the “wet foot, dry foot” policy.

Scott, predictably, sees this as yet another example of Obama’s failings.

“President Obama’s Cuba policy can be summed up this way: he has legitimized and coddled a bloodthirsty dictator and in the process, he has turned his back on those who have fought so hard for a free Cuba,” Scott said in a statement.

The governor notes that “people in Cuba are being persecuted and killed for their faith, for supporting democracy, for expressing their political views, and for simply desiring freedom.”

“With the President’s latest move,” Scott added, “it appears that he has consulted and negotiated with a foreign tyrant while completely ignoring the United States Congress. We have a number of great members of Congress in our Florida delegation of Cuban descent, but of course the President did not involve them in his decision-making.”

Scott went on to say that Obama’s reforms came at the expense of human rights.

“Obama’s polices have not improved human rights in Cuba. In fact, things may be getting worse. We believe that the murderous regime made about 10,000 political arrests last year. Just this week, pro-democracy leader Dr. Oscar Biscet was arrested. Obama has betrayed America’s long-standing commitment to human rights and freedom in Cuba. We need a Cuba policy that respects the fundamental desire of the Cuban people to be free.”

Scott’s excoriation of the Obama era Cuba policy is well-timed, as the governor is rumored to be mulling a Senate run next year.

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Professional services firm announces HQ relocation to Tampa from North Carolina

BlueLine Associates, a professional services firm, is relocating its global headquarters from Cary, North Carolina to Tampa.

For the move., BlueLine expects to invest more than $2 million in the local economy, and create 150 new jobs, paying an average wage of $71,909. While the firm currently has offices in Tampa, the relocation of its headquarters will expand the company’s footprint to include its financial, legal and human resources groups.

Gov. Rick Scott hailed the move as “great news.”

“We were competing with North Carolina and Louisiana, but ultimately BlueLine Associates chose Florida for their new headquarters,” Scott said in a statement. “I look forward to BlueLine Associates continued success in our state.”

BlueLine provides consulting, managed services and staffing solutions to small, mid and large companies in a variety of industries. In 2015 and 2016, BlueLine was recognized on the “Best Places to Work” lists of both Consulting Magazine and the Triangle Business Journal.

“This move gives us access to Florida’s strong talent pool and allows us to continue the strategic expansion of our business,” said BlueLine President Rocky Silvestri. “Our company culture is at the core of our business success, our client’s satisfaction, and the happiness of our people.  We are excited to bring those guiding principles to Tampa.”

According to Scott’s office, the project was made possible through strong partnerships between Enterprise Florida, the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation, Hillsborough County, the City of Tampa and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

Several state and local leaders added their voices to applaud BlueLine’s decision.

Chris Hart IV, Enterprise Florida president and CEO, said: “Blueline Associates has chosen Florida because it is the best place to do business. The talent and the strong, business-friendly climate in Florida continue to attract growing businesses. Hard-working Floridians are getting jobs that could have gone to other states, but they ended up right here in Florida.”

Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Cissy Proctor added: “BlueLine Associates’ relocation to the Tampa area is yet another example of a business recognizing the unique opportunities for growth in Florida. Our state boasts a strong and talented workforce, a business-friendly, low tax environment and fewer regulations that enable companies to grow and succeed.”

“Hillsborough County offers BlueLine Associates a deep bench of information technology consulting, staffing and management consulting talent, as well as the amenities that will make it easy for them to recruit exceptional candidates to the area,” said Hillsborough County Commission Chair Stacy White.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn pointed out that the move is further proof that Tampa’s star “continues to rise.”

“As millennial talent flocks here and our downtown undergoes a historic and exciting transformation,” Buckhorn said, “Tampa is gaining a national reputation as the place to be for companies ranging from startups to Fortune 500 corporations. We wish BlueLine Associates a prosperous future here.”

Candidates interested in a position with BlueLine Associates can visit blueline-associates.com, for more information on available positions.

 

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Florida’s economic development efforts are ‘underperforming’

Florida’s state economic development efforts are “underperforming,” according to a new legislative report.

 

An undesirable label by any standard, critics and lawmakers already skeptical of providing taxpayer support for private businesses are likely to seize on the bureaucratic euphemism and underlying findings to bolster their anti-incentives position ahead of the March state legislative session.

The Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability, a nonpartisan legislative research office, conducted a comprehensive review of Enterprise Florida Inc. and the Department of Economic Opportunity —the state’s two most prominent development organizations— and found the results of their economic development activities wanting when compared with other states.

The analysis spans 10 years and focuses on job creation in targeted industries as well as economic growth. These two areas are the main justifications for awarding taxpayer-funded subsidies to selected businesses, and for their proponents’ significant annual funding requests.

In the report, auditors compared Florida to seven competitor states with tax-incentive agencies and programs: Alabama, California, Georgia, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas.

Overall, from 2006 to 2015, Florida experienced job growth in only two of six targeted industry sectors, management of companies and enterprises, and professional, scientific and technical services. The state ranked third and seventh in the job categories, respectively, when compared with the other states.

Additionally, Florida ranked fourth out of the eight for high-wage job creation in manufacturing, sixth in both wholesale trade and finance and insurance, and seventh in information services.

“Further analyses showed little or no employment growth in these industries relative to the nation,” the report said.

Texas, a state often compared with Florida because of their comparable size and rapid growth, received first place rankings for employment in five of the six tax-incentive targeted industries.

The report also compares Florida with its competitor states according to several economic indicators commonly used in studies that examine state economic outlooks and business climates — gross domestic product, GDP per capita, unemployment rate, and personal income.

Florida fared best in the area of unemployment, with the third-lowest rate in 2015. However, among large states in the competitor group, New York and Texas outperformed Florida on all four measures, and California outperformed Florida on three measures, auditors determined.

On the whole, Florida ranked fourth out of eight states in economic terms, besting North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and Alabama.

‘Lack of marketing’

Beyond jobs and economic growth, the review highlighted a major flaw with respect to Enterprise Florida’s financing, and noted the stark lack of incentive assistance directed toward small, minority and rural businesses.

According to the report, private-sector cash investments “represent a very small portion of Enterprise Florida’s overall budget.”

However, state law requires that the public-private partnership obtain private-sector financing in the amount equal to its taxpayer appropriations, but it never has — and it’s not even close.

Established in 1996, Enterprise Florida was supposed to achieve public-private match funding by fiscal year 2000-01. It didn’t, and it hasn’t grown its private funding resources over the past decade.

“Private sector cash contributions during OPPAGA’s review period rarely exceeded $2 million, while state appropriations averaged about $20 million per year,” the report says.

Auditors added that by investing $122 million of incentive funding — money committed but not yet spent — in a state trust fund instead of a commercial escrow account, the state could double that return, adding another $2 million to the pot.

Whatever its source, very little of the money is going to small businesses.

Although 96 percent of state businesses employ fewer than 50 employees, auditors found that most state-level economic development programs, particularly business incentives, benefit large companies.

The report says a “lack of marketing may affect participation.”

More glaring is the low rate of participation in the state’s Black Business Loan program, which made only 12 active loans in fiscal 2015.

Participation in the Rural Community Development program has been even lower. Since 1996, the program has made only 17 loans, or just one loan every two years.

Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, both Republicans, are currently at odds over the future of Enterprise Florida. Scott wants a new $85 million appropriation. Corcoran helped block a $250 million funding attempt in 2016.

Corcoran is on record saying that if he could, he’d abolish the quasi-state agency.

Last year alone, state officials appropriated $1.08 billion to Enterprise Florida and the Department of Economic Opportunity. All but $25 million went to DEO.

Enterprise Florida coordinates its economic development partnerships with the department, which in turn collaborates on development contracts and acts as the contract manager for Enterprise Florida incentive agreements.

A House legislative discussion is scheduled for Wednesday at the Capitol, where lawmakers will “review the return on investment” for Florida’s economic incentive programs.

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