Sunday, July 22, 2018
Opinion

Gov. Rick Scott: House should not kill Enterprise Florida, Visit Florida

The Florida House of Representatives has decided to push legislation to undo economic development funding in Florida and defund our state's tourism agency. A House panel voted for this job-killing legislation two weeks ago, and the House Appropriations Committee will be voting on it today.

That's correct: Many of your elected members of the Florida House have decided their top priority this year is to eliminate funding for Florida's economy. They want to eliminate Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida.

They say that they don't want government intrusion in the free market. Of course, there is government financing in the areas of health care, transportation, education, housing and social services. But they have decided to try to totally eliminate funding for the one area where we can easily show a major return on the investment of your tax dollars: Jobs are being created by more companies moving to our state, and our tourism industry has recruited a record-breaking number of visitors over the last few years.

Even more absurd, the politicians in the Florida House who already voted for this bill say they don't necessarily want to abolish these programs but instead want to advance a "conversation" — meaning they voted for something they don't support. This is hypocrisy at its best, and these are the kind of games I came to Tallahassee to change.

I ran for governor to fight this sort of politics and bring common sense from the business world to our government. The plan has worked, as Florida has added more than 1.26 million new jobs.

Many politicians spend a lifetime in government, and they simply don't have any understanding of how business actually works. These are the facts that confirm the negligence of eliminating our jobs and tourism agencies:

• Before I came into office, state incentives were often awarded before goals, like job creation, were met.

• Today, Florida companies only receive economic incentives after an independent third-party audit proves stringent requirements are met, including proven job growth and wage requirements to ensure a great return on investment for Florida families.

• This means no money is given as "corporate welfare" because no money can be awarded until contract requirements like jobs are created.

• Because of our economic development programs, several companies like Hertz, Northrup Grumman, and Blue Origin — to name a few — have located or expanded in our state to create thousands of jobs.

The Florida House likes to rely on inaccurate information to push their narrative of "corporate welfare" by highlighting the failed deal of Digital Domain. Let's look at the facts: Enterprise Florida recommended that the state not fund Digital Domain. Ironically, politicians in the Florida Legislature chose to ignore Enterprise Florida's recommendation and circumvented its strict process in 2009 by funding the failed project from the Legislature.

Both Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida have made mistakes over the years. In both cases, we have made changes to ensure transparency of taxpayer dollars and brought in new leadership. That is what you do in business; you make changes and get it right. But what you do not do is close up shop.

If the House were to succeed with ending economic development and tourism programs in Florida, the small and rural communities in our state would be hurt the most. Canceling our statewide program would hurt those areas in Florida that would truly be revitalized by a new job creator in their community.

Just last week, I traveled the state and met with business owners who are devastated that there is even talk of abolishing these programs. Many job creators rely on Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida and said they would not be able to keep their doors open if it weren't for their help. No job is expendable to the families they employ.

Coming into this job after a lifetime in business, I knew I would have to learn to tolerate some aspects of politics and I would have to endure lectures from people who do not know the first thing about creating jobs. But I cannot allow thousands of Floridians to be denied jobs and opportunities in our state just so a few in elected office can get headlines for their campaign for higher office.

Our economy is booming. Our economic development and tourism programs are some of the best in the nation when it comes to getting a positive return on investment. I will continue to set the record straight on the politics the Florida House is playing and fight for the Florida families who expect their government officials to bring them more opportunity, not less.

This is no time to stand still. In business you are either moving forward or you are moving backward. The Florida House is currently planning to take our state backward. I will fight to stop them, and so should you.

Rick Scott is governor of Florida.

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