Monday, February 19, 2018
Politics

Once a proponent, Ingolgia is now against corporate welfare

State Rep. Blaise Ingoglia apparently no longer likes giveaways to businesses.

I say apparently because the new, low-key, conventional-politician Ingoglia doesn't say a lot about explosive topics such as eliminating Gov. Rick Scott's favored vehicle for distributing such giveaways, Enterprise Florida.

But in a recent meeting of the House Appropriations Committee, Ingoglia did vote for HB 7005 — the bill seeking to dismantle Enterprise Florida — a vote that came as no surprise because the bill is a top priority of House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

Corcoran has made a strong argument that Enterprise Florida grants haven't delivered the promised corporate investment and jobs. And a recent report from the Legislature's Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability found that Florida's incentive programs excluded small businesses, and that "employment analyses show that for several industries, Florida underperformed compared to competitor states."

From the left, these payouts have long been seen as anti-democratic measures that shift the burden from business to ordinary taxpayers. For Corcoran, a Republican from Land O'Lakes — and for key Republican donors, especially the Koch brothers — opposition to such gifts is part of a broader small-government agenda.

So, even though the two sides come at the issue from different points of view, there's potential for a bipartisan push.

And it seems to be gathering steam. Scott's request for $85 million to fund Enterprise Florida seems highly endangered, and on Monday CEO Chris Hart abruptly resigned from an agency that is now routinely described as "embattled."

And though Spring Hill's Ingoglia, who besides serving in the Legislature is chairman of the state Republican Party, didn't comment at the committee meeting or respond to a Times request for his position on 7005, he has recently been quoted as denouncing "corporate welfare."

Okay, but he didn't always feel that way.

In fact, in an earlier incarnation as the flamboyant stager of Government Gone Wild seminars, Ingoglia backed — unsuccessfully, thank goodness — one of the most wildly generous handout schemes in county history.

The name of the program, you may recall, didn't even try to disguise this fact. It proposed handing out "gift cards" worth as much as $5,000 in county tax breaks at a time, 2009, when the county was desperate for every penny.

Pretty much all anyone would have had to do to qualify was buy a foreclosed home. There were no income limits for card recipients.

In fact, one of the few limits on the program was that it would have been closed to prospective customers who qualified for other programs that helped first-time buyers with modest incomes.

True, the cards initially would have gone to individuals, not to an industry. But the ultimate beneficiary would have been builders looking to clear the inventory of foreclosed homes.

Ingoglia, of course, is a home builder. During the boom he was the biggest local home builder in Hernando.

Maybe he really has had a rethink on giveaways. Or maybe he only likes corporate welfare when he gets to cash the checks.

Contact Dan DeWitt at [email protected]; follow @ddewitttimes.

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