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Florida's largesse to Scripps riles Davis

Published Aug. 27, 2005

What do California's Scripps Research Institute and the railroad barons of the 19th century have in common? Florida's extraordinary generosity, suggests U.S. Rep. Jim Davis, D-Tampa.

The congressman, asked his opinion of the recent deal to commit $569-million of state and county funds to bring a Scripps facility to Palm Beach County, said Scripps would certainly help Florida's quest to build its young biotech industry. But he said the use of so many taxpayer dollars to lure Scripps to the state was unfortunate.

"This reminds me of Florida giving away the farm to railroads to get them to bring their tracks down here," Davis told a Thursday breakfast gathering of the Tampa Bay Technology Forum. "We should not prostitute ourselves, but should be investing in our own people and institutions." Davis later apologized for using "prostitute" and credited Gov. Jeb Bush for recruiting Scripps.

But Davis _ a rare public critic to comment on the Scripps recruiting model _ repeated that the state cannot continue to offer such huge giveaways, especially when there is little or no risk to the business.