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Robert Trigaux

Florida lags many states in knowing whether its tax incentives for jobs are effective: study




Florida Gov. Rick Scott, armed with $3 million in state incentives, in September 2011 welcomed Time Warner and its decision to bring 500 jobs in five years to Hillsborough County. AP photo.

Wake up and good morning. Florida talks a good game about being on the cutting edge and recruiting new businesses, but it lags terribly behind other states that demand accountability about all those tax dollars handed out as business incentives. So says a report out this week from the Pew Center on the States that found Florida is the largest among 25 states that has "not taken the basic steps needed to know whether their incentives are effective."

 I know. This is an old story. Plenty of stories already have ripped Florida government for its shoddy oversight for handing over incentives to businesses that make specific promises to bring jobs (often jobs that are supposed to pay specific, above average wages) but are never checked for meeting those goals.

States that do this right, or at least better, are Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin. Gee, look at all those states from the southeast. Other than N.C., nobody.

It's curious how quiet Florida leadership has been on this state oversight because it involves precious tax dollars, the favorite topic of Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

One recent example of a tax-break-subsidized deal is Time Warner's 2011 decision to bring 500 jobs averaging $57,200 over the next five years to Hillsborough County. In return, Florida offered $3 million in state and local tax incentives. Tampa and Temple Terrace waved additional sums at Time Warner if the company chose their locations for expansion. Read more here.

"When states forgo revenue by offering economic development tax incentives, they have less money to spend on education, transportation, healthcare and other critical services," states Jeff Chapman, Pew Center senior researcher.

Read the full report -- Evidence Counts: Evaluating State Tax Incentives for Jobs and Growth -- which offers suggestions to states on improving accountability.

When the Palm Beach Post asked the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity and Enterprise Florida -- the state's two agencies in charge of business incentives -- for comment, the paper got no response. Here's the story.

Florida should get is accountability act together on what it gets for handing out taxpayer money. It should lead the next Pew Center study, not follow behind as it did this year.

-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, Tampa Bay Times


[Last modified: Friday, April 13, 2012 7:35am]


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