Tax breaks and public investment deals that Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has said will create more than 45,000 jobs in the state have so far brought less than 5 percent of that promised haul, according to an extensive review of public records and press releases by the Miami Herald and the Tampa Bay Tribune.
Scott has made 342 separate incentive deals with private companies since taking office in 2011. Those will cost Florida a total of $266 million, mostly in the form of tax breaks. But while the total payoff is supposed to be 45,258 new jobs, just 1,939 have materialized to date, and many of the deals have either languished or fallen through completely, the newspapers found. Just 36 out of 342 job-creation promises has produced even a single job so far, according to the full database on the Herald’s website. Forty-six of the deals — a full 14 percent of the total — have fallen through entirely.
Over the same period, overall economic growth in Florida has been strong. There are 440,000 more private-sector jobs now than when Scott took office, and Florida’s unemployment rate has fallen from 11.1 percent to 6.7 percent. But while those numbers reflect the slow-but-steady national recovery that’s taken hold over the past three years, the newspapers separated out “the deals that the governor could most affect: projects where the state offers economic incentives such as cash grants and tax refunds” to lure new business and new job opportunities.
The data show that “96 percent of the jobs have yet to materialize,” and the newspapers provide some anecdotes to reinforce the impression that Scott’s transactions haven’t been great for Floridians. In 2011, Colt’s Manufacturing got a promise from Scott to spend a quarter-million taxpayer dollars renovating a warehouse that still sits empty. A sawmill Scott announced in 2012 is just beginning construction, preventing it from creating any of the 350 jobs the deal promised. A company called Redpine Healthcare Techologies that Scott lured from Spokane, Washington to Panama City, Florida with $400,000 in incentives never showed up, and the Herald reports that its bankrupt co-founder was accused of fraud by the state of Florida.
The governor’s staff defends Scott’s record by noting that these deals often take a while to materialize. Of the $266 million in total costs from the deals, $45 million currently “sits idle waiting to be claimed by companies that have not yet reached hiring goals,” but Scott and his advisers note that “these things take time.”
Tax incentives to lure businesses are far from a sure bet. An article published Monday in Tax Analysts notes that New York State has spent $10 billion subsidizing job creation over the past decade but has lost 175,000 net jobs over the same period, and it argues that such failures are the norm across the country for corporate giveaways justified with the promise of job growth. But that isn’t stopping more than a dozen states from “groveling before the throne” as aircraft manufacturing giant Boeing ponders a move out of Washington state, according to the Associated Press, offering the company “property, labor deals, and billions of dollars in tax breaks” to lure it within their borders.
This post originally mischaracterized the legal proceedings against officials at Redpine Healthcare Technologies as an indictment by Washington state against the company’s owner. It was in fact a civil suit for fraud by the state of Florida against the company’s then-president. We regret the error.