Special Session Produced Corporate Welfare Lite

As far as I know, light beer is still beer. It may be watered down, but it is still beer.

The special session wrapped up Friday afternoon and we now have a new economic incentive program called the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund. This new program will be funded at $85 million and can be used by Governor Rick Scott at his discretion without any accountability, transparency or legislative oversight.

House bill HB 1A, which passed on Friday, outlines this new program but is very vague as how it will work. Supposedly, the $85 million cannot be used to benefit any one company, but can be used for infrastructure projects and job training to attract “targeted industries” to Florida.

If Governor Scott uses this fund to attract certain “target industries”, doesn’t that look more like corporate welfare that will pick what industries win and which industries lose?

Many Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature voiced concerns over what they saw as simply a “slush fund” for the governor. The Florida Senate had a short time to review the request for this new program but amended the legislation with common sense accountability measures that would establish an application process and criteria for grant requests. Also, all expenditures would have to be documented, detailed and include performance conditions to be met to obtain the grant.

Unfortunately, Speaker Corcoran refused to accept the Senate language and we ended up with a very vague bill on just how the new program will work. This means that Speaker Corcoran did not want any transparency or oversight on how this fund will be used.

After Speaker Corcoran had fought so hard to end corporate welfare programs in Florida during the regular session, why did he propose the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund which the governor could use without any oversight?

Governor Scott spent his time during the regular session fighting Speaker Corcoran on ending Enterprise Florida’s list of corporate welfare programs and was angry that he did not get his way and would not have that pot of money to use to lure companies to move to Florida. But, faced with Governor Scott vetoing his pet project education bill to expand charter schools, Speaker Corcoran decided he would give Governor Scott his demands for some form of corporate welfare program that the governor fought to keep during the session.

The question remains why does the governor need this special fund? The Legislature already appropriates money every year for infrastructure projects, such as roads, bridges, tunnels, water supply, sewers, and electrical grids and the state already assists individuals with job training opportunities. Of course, these projects are vetted and debated through the legislative committee process. Legislators can ask questions and most importantly, the public can speak in support or opposition to a project. The legislative process works best to ensure these projects are an appropriate use of taxpayer money.

My objection is not with spending money to make sure we have the best infrastructure in the country, that will benefit all of us, my objection is with the process where one person can spend our money without any oversight.

Speaker Corcoran insists this new program is not corporate welfare, because it cannot be used for the benefit of any one company. But, If Governor Scott cannot use the fund for any one company, how will he know what kind of infrastructure or job training is needed?

If it is not corporate welfare, why did Speaker Corcoran refuse any accountability and oversight measures? Why are we institutionalizing a “pot of money” as Speaker Corcoran called it? That pot of money is the taxpayer’s money, we deserve to know how it is being used.

Light beer is still beer and corporate welfare light is still corporate welfare.


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