Top Senate Republican says investment money should be returned to state
Sen. Don Gaetz, a Niceville Republican expected to take over the Senate president's suite next year, said if companies took taxpayer money from the state without creating jobs they should return the cash.
"If we have players out there who have not done what they said they would do, I want the money back to invest in more promising companies," Gaetz said in an interview today.
Earlier today, Gaetz posed a list of questions to one of Gov. Rick Scott's top economic development officials over the performance of the state's incentive programs.
Gaetz has asked Department of Economic Opportunity Director Doug Darling to produce the "Discussion Papers" related to six companies that took $23.4 million from the state without fulfilling promises for 3,260 jobs and $273 million in capital investment.
Gaetz has also asked for any information related to any other companies that have failed to meet their contracts.
"I can tell you every investment doesn't hit a home run," Gaetz told the Times/Herald. "But my experience in having taken venture capitalist dollars in the private world is that investment money depends upon the company hitting very specific performance milestones. If you don't hit the milestone, you get the investment liquidated or the reins pulled in very hard."
Gaetz said he wasn't sure what would come back from the Department of Economic Opportunity, the agency created this year to streamline incentive projects for Scott, but expressed confidence that CEO-turned-investment manager-turned-governor would right the ship.
"This governor we have is a very serious and very successful business person who understands term sheets and performance contracts. And I would expect out of the Scott administration we're going to see a very disciplined approach to economic development," Gaetz said.