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Tampa Bay House Republicans bearish on Rick Scott’s economic incentives in 2017

During the past Legislative Session, the Florida Legislature denied one of Gov. Rick Scott’s signature issues — a $250 economic incentives funding plan to encourage businesses to locate or expand in Florida.

It was not only a blow to the governor’s ego (and list of priorities), but also disappointed those in the economic development camp, such as many of the folks who attended Tuesday’s Tampa Bay legislative delegation luncheon sponsored by the Tampa Bay Partnership.

Those same business officials couldn’t have walked away pleased after the lunch, where the majority of the five lawmakers who attended did not indicate that the governor was likely to come out victorious on that issue in 2017.

“I don’t see much opportunity in next two years for the funds,” opined outgoing Pasco County GOP state Senator John Legg. “Looking at the political structure of where people are dug in on the issue. I think there is some common ground that can be reached on restructuring tax cuts and other incentives, but, to be direct, I would say that the $250 million that [governor] requested, the House money is not going to be getting into the Legislature in the next two years I would venture to say.”

That’s probably a safe assumption, as Land O’Lakes Appropriations Chair Rep. Richard Corcoran will become Speaker of the House in 2017. Corcoran has used the Americans for Prosperity approved phrase “corporate welfare” in deriding Scott’s intentions on using cuts cash and tax breaks in return for jobs.

“I’m one who thinks that’s OK when we’re talking about several hundred million dollars worth of taxpayer money,” said Safety Harbor Republican House member Chris Sprowls about the failure of the Legislature to support Scott’s goal.

Sprowls questioned the legitimacy of the argument offered by moderator Rhea Law that such economic incentives alone were what brought corporations like Bristol-Myers Squibb to Hillsborough County a few years ago. “When folks say we’ve created this many jobs, ask them how many of those jobs were created from Enterprise Florida vs. the billions of dollars worth of tax cuts that have gone on for the last several years.”

Sprowls then asked the same question when it came to deregulation that has been championed in the House. “How many of those jobs were Enterprise Florida jobs, and how many belonged to those other things, and I think the economist’s answer would be, ‘I don’t know.” I think that’s the honest answer.”

Tampa House Republican Dana Young didn’t weigh in on incentives directly, instead relating an anecdote about billionaire David Tepper, whose recent move from tax-heavy New Jersey to Florida could result in the loss of $140 million in income tax he no longer will pay to the Garden State. “Tax cuts MATTER,” she sternly declared. “Business climate MATTERS. And a commitment to those things and to making this a good place to live and work and raise a family, matters.”

Bradenton House Republican Jim Boyd championed the governor’s $250 million request, to little avail in the House this past Session. Though disappointed by what the chamber ultimately did (or didn’t do) with the proposal, he said it came out stronger in the end.

“Whether you’re ideologically aligned with the funding or not, I think that the bill that we had, unfortunately, didn’t make it through the House strengthened the process,” Boyd said, referring to accountability and transparency provisions that were added.

AFP- Florida was also a player in denying tax incentives to lure Hollywood productions to the Sunshine State. Tampa Democrat Ed Narain referred to how the movie version of the Dennis Lehane novel “Live By Night,” based in Ybor City, was actually filmed in Georgia.

“That’s just disturbing to me. Because that’s jobs. People say those are just temporary jobs. But we have to think about the tourism,” he said, referring to what the two “Dolphin Tale” movies have done for Clearwater and its aquarium in that regard.

Written By

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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