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Florida's secret cash giveaways to private companies

3:51 PM, Apr 16, 2012   |    comments
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Tallahassee, Florida - Government watchdog group Integrity Florida says taxpayers across the state are being kept in the dark about how their money is spent for economic development projects.

The group wants state leaders to be more open about how millions of dollars are spent and how many jobs are created as a result.

State lawmakers recently passed legislation, and the governor signed it, requiring full disclosure of a new project within 180 days. But that time period can be stretched out to two years if companies demand it.

Dan Krassner of Integrity Florida argues that's a bad policy because taxpayers should have the right to know immediately when their money is given away to private companies.

"If we need to redact the name that's fine but let's tell the public - how much money are we spending and how many jobs are we going to get in return; 869,000 out-of-work Floridians want jobs. The current Enterprise Florida jobs goal is 20,000 a year. We need to demand a higher goal. We need to demand that contracts for economic development are posted online."

Right now Florida is pursuing some economic development projects that remain secret. The state's economic development agency Enterprise Florida has given the projects code names, such as "Project Snakes Eyes," "Project Mae West" and "Project Bacon."

Krassner is calling on Enterprise Florida to post details about tax incentives as soon as it signs a contract with a company.

"If we're spending hundreds of millions of dollars as we do every year through Enterprise Florida for economic development investments let's tell policymakers and the public when the jobs are going to be here. We need to know. We need the jobs now."

Integrity Florida wants Florida to start using a return-on-investment calculator that's proven successful in Ohio. It reveals how much money is spent on economic development projects and how many jobs are expected before a deadline.

Enterprise Florida did not respond to a request for a response.

Dave Heller

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