Does Amazon deal undermine Scott's tea party support?
For Gov. Rick Scott, Thursday’s announcement boosts his claim that he’s a “jobs governor.”
Upon getting elected in 2010, Scott promised to create 700,000 new jobs on top of the average growth of 1 million jobs by 2017. About 302,500 jobs have been created since he took office. Thursday's Amazon announcement represents what would be one of the largest coups he’s had since taking office. The 3,000 jobs trails only 135,000 anticipated jobs from the opening of the Port Everglades Intermodal Terminal, 8,500 from a Winter Haven rail terminal, and 3,500 from a Wawa opening in Orlando. It would be the largest one-time job announcement for Tampa Bay since Scott became governor.
Yet for all the excitement, isn't it a tax increase?
It had been reported that was why he walked away from a deal last month, because he didn’t want to tax online sales in Florida. But Scott spokeswoman Melissa Sellers said the deal was not a reversal of his earlier stance but a “culmination of ongoing discussions.”
Amazon will begin collecting the 6 percent state sales tax as required under Florida law. A 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision ruled that an Internet company only collects sales taxes in states where they are physically located, which would now include Florida.
What do Scott's Tea Party supporters think of it?
Henry Kelley, chairman of the Fort Walton Beach Tea Party, which has about 1,500 members, says he doesn't quite know what to think of the deal right now.
"I'm kind of torn on this one," Kelley said. "Obviously, when you aren't paying taxes you haven't paid before, it's a tax increase. Then again, this makes the state tax system more fair, because brick-and-mortar establishments already pay this. If it makes it more fair, I'm for it, I guess."
Kelley said he wants to see Scott make the deal "revenue neutral" by cutting taxes, fees or programs to make up for the estimated $45 million to $90 million that state coffers could gain from the deal.
"We need to diversify the economy," Kelley said. "I applaud him in trying to diversify. Where I live, the economy is just tourism and military. We need more industry than that, and the governor understands that. If this is kept revenue neutral in some capacity, I support it."
But Scott has bigger problem with his tea party base than convincing them that the Amazon deal is a winner, Kelley said. He said they still resent him for favoring Medicaid expansion and not vetoing $4 billion in this year's budget. To tea partiers like Kelley, that $4 billion represents unnecessary growth in the state's budget.
"Scott's done damage to his base," Kelley said, who said he's gone from a vociferous supporter of Scott to a tepid one. "His advisers stiff-armed the tea party when we became unpopular. With the IRS issues, we’ve become more popular. We'll see what happens next."