Two Democratic legislators from South Florida have scheduled a press conference tomorrow to demand that the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity comply with a new law that requires the agency's web site to tell taxpayers how their money is being spent in the high-stakes jobs recruitment business.
Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, and Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, are asking that the state comply with the requirements of the new law by Jan. 1, 2014.
“Every year our state provides funds to companies in return for promises that they’ll create jobs,” Rodríguez said. “If job creation is the goal, then the portal is supposed to help keep score to see which projects are making good on promises to taxpayers. We passed reforms this year but DEO’s portal still doesn’t comply with either the spirit or the letter of the law.”
The law requires the state to not only list the tax incentives provided to companies but also list the average annual wage of persons holding jobs generated as well as the jobs retained.
“Transparency is lacking and the portal is not complete,'' Sobel said.
Here's their letter:
Executive Director Jesse Panuccio
Department of Economic Opportunity
107 East Madison Street
Caldwell Building, Suite 100
Tallahassee, FL 32399 November 20, 2013
Request to bring Economic Development Incentives Portal into Compliance with F.S. 288.076
Dear Director Panuccio,
We write to you as legislators who worked with your Department on reforms, codified at section 288.076, that require the creation of your Department’s Economic Development Incentives Portal (“the portal”). The relevant portions of those reforms, passed as HB 7007 (2013), are now in effect. While we recognize the hard work of Department staff in developing the portal, we nonetheless believe it is out of compliance with important requirements of section 288.076.
One project entered into after October 1st of this year is identified “Bank of America 12-00794” on the portal. Using this as an example, items required by statute yet not included in the portal at the time of writing include the location of the company’s headquarters, the company’s size class and the anticipated last performance date. In addition, other data is missing. For example, data for performance goals, such as the average annual wage of persons holding jobs generated and holding jobs retained, is absent. We request that you conduct a thorough review of your Department’s data collection and reporting and bring the portal into compliance with the disclosure requirements of section 288.076.
There is another, more fundamental problem with the portal. Subpart (2) of section 288.076 reads as follows:
The department shall maintain a website for the purpose of publishing the information described in this section. The information required to be published under this section must be provided in a format accessible to the public which enables users to search for and sort specific data and to easily view and retrieve all data at once.
The portal currently allows users to sort based on a limited set of criteria in a format whose user-friendliness is dubious. It does not allow users to search. Nor, does it allow users to retrieve all data at once. Other state websites – including others maintained by your Department and including others holding far more data – allow for the download of all available data with the single click of a button. Such a function would be one way to comply with section 288.076. It would enable members of the public, media and academics to easily analyze and compare project data over time and based upon any criteria that they find relevant. As such, we also request that the portal be brought into compliance with the requirements of subpart (2).
Please complete the changes requested in this letter by January 1, 2014. If you cannot accomplish the same by that date, please inform our offices as soon as possible explaining why you cannot and informing us the date upon which the public can expect a compliant portal.
Thank you for your attention to this timely matter. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions.
Senator Eleanor Sobel
Representative José Javier Rodríguez