A conservative group came out against Gov. Rick Scott’s economic incentives plan Tuesday, deriding it as corporate welfare and saying it lacked transparency.
Americans for Prosperity Florida director Chris Hudson said his group agreed with Scott’s call for broad-based tax cuts at his 2015 State of the State Address, as well as his statement that “taxpayers can spend their money better than government can,” but sees the Republican governor’s incentives plan as a contradiction of those views.
Scott’s plan would replace the Quick Action Closing Fund, a pot of money Scott can use to lure companies to Florida, with a new $250 million fund as well as change the way incentives deals are approved. Under the plan, the governor, Senate president, and House speaker would have the final say in deals worth $1 million or more.
The governor has been calling on the Legislature to “fully fund” his incentives priorities since the acrimonious close to the 2015 session ,when incentives were funded at just half the level he requested. The $250 million request would be three years funding dispersed in one lump sum.
AFP-FL took particular umbrage with Enterprise Florida Executive vice president and chief operating officer Crystal Sircy’s presentation to the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development, which they said was “focused primarily on the high value being placed on streamlining the current vehicle for disbursing taxpayer dollars.”
“The last thing lawmakers should allow is for there to be less transparency in a process that already makes risky investments taxpayers are paying for,” Hudson said.
The stance is in lock-step with comments committee member Sen. Jack Latvala made during the Tuesday meeting. The Clearwater Republican said the deal was complicated and the committee needed a detailed, specific proposal for the committee to work with. Latvala also questioned how a major bump in incentives funding would mesh with Scott’s tax cut plan.
Hudson also echoed the views of Venice Republican Sen. Nancy Detert, who said Florida shouldn’t be competing with other states that are “giving away the store” with their economic incentives programs. During the Tuesday meeting, Detert questioned why Florida couldn’t compete with $150 million in funding, considering neighboring states Georgia and South Carolina make do with incentives budgets around the $50 million mark.
“Senator Detert’s comment embodies our belief that Floridians should be in complete control of their economic growth and we should not be in a hurry to get into a race to the bottom with spendthrift states,” Hudson said.
The group said it plans to continue its aggressive opposition toward “unnecessary” and “wasteful” incentives spending through contact with lawmakers, direct mail campaigns and door-to-door visits with Florida residents.