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Miami lawmaker wants more scrutiny for economic incentives

Rep. José Javier Rodríguez, D-Miami, is pushing for more accountability from the state's tax incentive program, which provides tax breaks for companies who agree to create jobs in Florida.

Under a bill field by Rodríguez, the state would have to provide detailed information about the type of jobs created by companies receiving taxpayer incentives. Florida would also have to launch an online database to allow taxpayers to track the progress of the companies receiving incentives. An online database was launched last year, but it has only limited information.

The tax credit program is facing renewed scrutiny this year, as lawmakers look more closely at the pros and cons of giving companies tax deals to lure them to Florida. Last year, one of the companies went bust after receiving $20 million in taxpayer funds from the state.

While Gov. Rick Scott and his top officials in charge of the incentives program say the tax incentives are helping to create thousands of jobs, several bills filed by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle seek additional transparency. Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, is pushing a bill that would require an independent review of all incentives, providing information about the return on the state's investment.

“Our state’s economic development programs are a major strategy for diversifying our economy and making it more competitive for the future” said Rodríguez, in a statement. “Evaluating taxpayer-funded incentives with maximum transparency is important for all Floridians but particularly for those Florida businesses whose competitors are receiving tax dollars to deliver on jobs or investment promises.  This bill seeks to restore credibility to economic development programs which have recently come under fire for failing to fulfill their missions.”