Rough outing in Senate for Johnson, Gov. Scott's jobs creator
Enterprise Florida chief executive Bill Johnson came in for more criticism Tuesday in testimony before a Senate budget panel. Johnson, the former PortMiami boss who was Gov. Rick Scott's handpicked choice eight months ago to run the public-private partnership, faced a volley of hostile questions over the fact that $141 million is sitting in escrow, yet Johnson is pleading poverty and claims his closing fund is virtually broke.
"It's almost hilarious," said Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice.
The staff of Sen. Jack Latvala's budget panel produced a spreadsheet showing that of $264 million appropriated to the state's top job creation fund since Scott took office, $9.2 million has been actually given to companies in return for jobs created, or 3.5 percent of the total.
Johnson did not dispute the figures, but he emphasized that escrowed money is committed to be paid in the future as employers create jobs. "That money is sacred. It's in a lock box," Johnson testified. On average, he said, companies have from three to seven years to create jobs in return for incentive money.