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Mud-bogging promoter tries to tap stream of corporate welfare

I wonder where Mike Barbee got the idea that he didn't have to play by the rules.

I wonder why he thought he could hold his events on a farm near Brooksville without the proper zoning for a full year — or, you know, long enough to find out whether this mud-bogging/reality show thing really works out.

I wonder where he got the nerve to tell Hernando County commissioners last month that he'd be back with demands that he, by God, expected to be fulfilled.

"I really will want something as we move forward," he said.

And: "Please tell us what you can do to help us. I'm sure you all have tax incentives and a whole bunch of other stuff that you can help us with."

And: "Show me how we can do it, not how we can't."

Fortunately, when Barbee returned Tuesday, the commissioners showed him a path to "can do" that is the same smooth one that staffers had already tried to lead him down:

Pay the fee for a rezoning application and, while it starts to move through the approval process, go ahead and stage two shows.

For backing up its employees, for affirming that businesses have to follow basic rules, commissioners deserve our congratulations.

And to be told that it's about darn time.

Because, really, there's no mystery where Barbee got his massive sense of entitlement. It's no surprise that he thought unsubstantiated promises to create jobs and pump money into the local economy would be enough to justify a break here and a handout there.

That's the way things are done all the time, both in the county and the state.

Witness the $4 million in state and county incentives offered to Accuform Signs last year to expand its factory near the county airport.

Look at the recent resolution asking the Florida Department of Transportation to do road work near Interstate 75 that banker Jim Kimbrough and his partners had promised as a condition for building a massive residential development.

Think of the most outrageous handout of all: axing impact fees to benefit builders.

Also, and especially, consider the recent evidence that corporate welfare is not as effective as its beneficiaries and the politicians who take their campaign donations would have you believe.

A report released by the watchdog group Integrity Florida last week documented, among other problems, that businesses receiving millions of dollars in state tax breaks over the past two decades have created only about half as many jobs as promised.

Maybe, as some say, the report is tainted because it was paid for by a partisan group run by the conservative Koch brothers.

Or maybe this just shows some people on the right are starting to question government handouts, no matter who receives them.

Of course, not all incentives are created equal. Accuform's history as an employer in Hernando, for example, is very solid. Barbee's claim that his shows could pump $5 million a month into the local economy is extremely shaky.

The commission was right to distinguish between an economic "transfusion," which is what Barbee said he was offering, and the donation that he was actually seeking.

But, really, you can't blame the guy for asking.

Mud-bogging promoter tries to tap stream of corporate welfare 02/12/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 12, 2013 8:08pm]
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