TALLAHASSEE — A massive "jobs bill" emerged Tuesday loaded with more than $218 million in tax breaks and economic incentives over three years designed to boost the Florida economy.
The space industry, film producers and manufacturers were the top beneficiaries with up to $70 million worth of incentives to targeted businesses in the coming year.
Other provisions in the 153-page bill range from a $1,000 tax incentive to businesses that hire unemployed workers to sales tax breaks for yacht buyers.
"Those dollars are not collected by any business unless they are creating jobs," said Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel. "This is not a give-out."
But questionable provisions and the late emergence of a 34-prong package that includes the substance of 10 different House bills has generated concerns about whether it would help cut the state's record unemployment, which stands at 12.3 percent.
"It's really not going to give a great big shot in the arm," said Keith Fitzgerald, D-Sarasota. The bill's investment is not real money when you're trying to talk about getting a several billion-dollar economy going."
The lead House negotiator, Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, conceded she doesn't have hard numbers about how many jobs it would create. "I can't give you a specific on jobs because the government doesn't create jobs," she said. "This is about giving businesses incentives and opportunities through policy."
The legislation is a top priority for GOP leaders, who called it the largest economic development measure in the last decade, as the state's economy continues to sputter and an election nears.
The bill (SB 1752) was the first major legislation the Senate approved, and the House spent weeks negotiating a final price tag in conjunction with the state budget. House lawmakers are expected to vote on it today, and the changes will be considered by the Senate before the legislative session ends Friday.
Democrats offered suggestions, including small-business help, but most were rejected.
The plan involves $30 million in state revenue, with another $20 million if Florida gets $880 million in federal Medicaid money. But the bulk of the incentives take the form of tax breaks.
One tax credit would go to businesses that hire workers who have been unemployed for at least 30 days. Capped at $5 million each year, it rewards businesses that keep workers for at least a year.
The biggest portion of the package — $242 million in tax breaks over five years — is aimed at the movie industry, but has a controversial measure allowing the transfer or sale of tax credits to major corporations like Walmart.
The credit pays for up to 20 percent of production, capped at $8 million. Family-friendly movies or filming during hurricane season bring extra incentives.
"These incentives are the linchpin for executive producers making the choice of whether to come here or not," said Rep. Kevin Amber, R-Tampa, who helped craft the film language.
The bill also has $16 million to create business opportunities and retrain workers in the uncertain space industry.
Other provisions would give $4 million in building grants to the defense industry; allow tax credits for builders of private roads; offer tax breaks for the purchase of airplanes by fractional owners; and require local governments to report the results of economic incentives.
The most controversial provision would cap the sales tax for large yachts at $18,000, which is the amount charged on $300,000 boats. It would cost $1.5 million. Proponents argue that buyers aren't really getting a break because high-end yachts are purchased through offshore companies to skirt the tax.