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New Rick Scott agency wants $230 million for job incentive pot

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott's agency in charge of enticing businesses to create jobs with cash incentives wants $230 million in 2012, 21/2 times the amount lawmakers set aside this year. But the same agency is having trouble keeping track of what's already been spent.

On Thursday, the Department of Economic Opportunity acknowledged that St. Petersburg-based Jabil Circuit never received $12.4 million the state said it did.

The company was one of six that several state documents showed had received a total of $23 million but not produced the promised jobs. Now, the state says Jabil's cash is in an escrow account.

"We apologize for the confusion," DEO spokesman James Miller said in an email.

Scott's new department has been struggling to wrap its arms around more than $739 million in incentives the state has paid since 1995 to companies like Walmart, Walgreens and Coca-Cola to create jobs.

The state has confirmed 86,284 jobs have been created with that money, or about a third of what the deals were supposed to generate. State officials say most of the contracts pay out only after jobs are created, which means tax incentives were not awarded unless new hires were confirmed.

But state officials said six companies, including Jabil, had received a total of $23.3 million from a cash fund and fallen short of their jobs promise.

Multiple records provided by the state show Jabil received $12.4 million in 2008 as part of a deal ultimately worth $37.1 million in state and local incentives.

In return for the money, the company promised to remain in St. Petersburg and invest $49 million in a new 400,000-square-foot building plus $5 million in equipment. The company said that would help create 800 new jobs and retain an additional 1,900 with an average wage of $50,222, according to state records.

Jabil was unable to meet those promises, so the state granted a two-year extension that runs out on Dec. 31. The state and the company are in negotiations to extend the deal for another two years.

Meanwhile, the agency is asking lawmakers for $230 million in incentives for next year, according to budget documents released Wednesday.

That compares to the $93 million the Legislature approved for the agency this year despite cutting overall spending by $1.4 billion. (Scott originally had requested $300 million in 2011 and $500 million in 2012.) Lawmakers are expecting a budget shortfall of $1.9 billion when they officially open the 2012 legislative session in January.

The budget request has not received a hearing. But some Republican lawmakers are considering rewriting a law that allows the state to hide details about incentive deals for up to two years.

Michael C. Bender can be reached at mbender@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263. Follow him on Twitter @MichaelCBender.

New Rick Scott agency wants $230 million for job incentive pot 11/10/11 [Last modified: Thursday, November 10, 2011 10:20pm]
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