News Column

Scott Seeks More Economic Incentives to Create Jobs

Feb. 1, 2013

Marcia Heroux Pounds, Sun Sentinel

Gov. Rick Scott proposes nearly a four-fold increase in economic incentives to jump start more jobs in the state, in his annual budget proposal to the Florida Legislature released Thursday.

Scott, who promised 700,000 jobs in seven years during his campaign, is asking for $279 million for the incentives program this fiscal year.

The Legislature allocated only $71.2 million to incentives in 2012-2013.

"The program has a 99 percent success rate with more than 100,000 new jobs created and more than $4.9 billion in capital investment," said James Miller, spokesman for the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, said Thursday.

The cost to taxpayers for those new jobs was $335 million, Enterprise Florida Chief Executive Gray Swoope told budget committees last week. That's about $3,250 per job.

In Broward and Palm Beach counties, state incentives have been awarded to companies including Bolton Medical, All About Staffing, Sikorsky Aircraft and Saveology for creating new jobs that ranged from 30 to 600. But those are only the incentives that have been disclosed -- some remain confidential.

Florida lawmakers have been seeking more details about the hundreds of millions of dollars in tax incentives the state awards companies each year.

Sen. Eleanor Sobel, R-Hollywood, is one of the lawmakers pushing for more transparency. "We're looking for high-wage, skilled jobs. I don't know what kind of jobs are being created with these incentives," she said in an interview Wednesday.

In touting success of the job-creation program, DEO doesn't include the failure of the Digital Domain Media Group project. The Port St. Lucie visual effects company, which collected millions of dollars from the state, last year laid off 280 workers and filed for bankruptcy.

Digital Domain was funded outside the state's official economic development vetting and approval process, Miller said. The project was rejected by Enterprise Florida, but approved by the previous governor and Legislature, he noted.

Gov. Scott's budget proposal also calls for streamlining of the state's "reemployment assistance" program, which distributes unemployment benefits and provides job-search counseling through local workforce agencies.

The big change for the unemployed may be a requirement to have a working e-mail address to receive jobless benefits. The DEO has said a law from the 2012 legislative session mandates further automation.

Advocates for the unemployed say this is just another step in Florida's squeezing eligible workers from the unemployment benefit rolls.



Source: (c)2013 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) Distributed by MCT Information Services


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