Companies should repay cash incentives to the state if those businesses have not created the jobs they promised, Gov. Rick Scott said today.
"If they owe us the money back, they should pay us the money back," said Scott, meeting this morning with the capital press corps for the second time over coffee and doughnuts and the first time since returning from Brazil on Thursday,
Scott declined to say how soon the public should have access to details in new tax incentive deals. State Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, told the Times/Herald that she will attempt to lift a public records exemption that hides some information, like the name of the company involved, for as long as two years. The exemption keeps other details, like trade secrets, forever confidential.
"It makes it more difficult to get something done if you're negotiating a deal and if you're constantly talking about it in public," Scott said. "So I don't know if the right time period is immediately after it's completed or two years."
"We're competing everyday for this stuff," Scott said about recruiting companies to the state. "There's people that are aggressive and historically most states have been more aggressive than Florida."
Scott said he had not reviewed recently released details that show state tax incentives have produced about one of every three expected jobs. In all, Florida has paid $739 million in incentives since 1995 to companies like Wal-Mart, Burger King and Coca-Cola to create 86,284 jobs.
While most of the deals are tiered to pay out as jobs are created, at least one fund pays cash upfront to companies. The state is attempting to renegotiate seven of those deals in which six companies were paid more than $23 million without fulfilling their promise of jobs.
Scott said he will not let companies use the soft economy as an excuse to break promises with the state.
"They tell you what they're going to do, people should do it," Scott said. "You get more results that way."
Scott, who built what was once the world's largest hospital chain, said his company spent about $3 billion every year in capital. Before he signed off on that spending, Scott said he forced managers to explain the project, show the potential returns, agree to his expectations and "explain all your prior deals to see if you had a track records of getting a return."
When it comes to measuring tax incentive deals, Scott said the state should do a better job than the private sector.
"Everybody likes the deal, right? In business what happens is people like the deal, and then the measurement stuff, hmm, that's not as much fun," Scott said.
"So you really have to set up a process to do it," he said. "Now if you'll do that, you'll get returns. If you don't do it it's like everything else: You don't get returns. I think it's incumbent upon us to do that. If we're going to spend your money, it's your tax money. If we're going to spend your tax money and you say on the other side you're going to do something, you should do it."
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