It seems nothing will stand between Governor Rick Scott and his maniacal campaign to connect the gaping snouts of the right business interests with the public trough.
After all – Slick Rick is creating “Jobs,” dammit.
And when you evoke the talisman of job creation, it absolves politicians of all sins against their constituents.
No matter how slimy the deal – how openly corrupt the misuse of public funds may be – our elected and appointed officials would have us believe the promise of ‘new jobs’ somehow polishes the turd while providing a heavy coat of political insulation.
As you may know, Scott wants to allocate an astronomical $161 million of our tax dollars for additional economic incentives and tourism funding in his proposed budget.
It’s like watching a dairy farmer hook up one of those milking machines to a cow’s teat.
It takes the work out of it, and siphons public funds out of state coffers quicker than you can say “corporate tax break.”
Earlier this week, Scott visited Flagler County to preach the gospel of corporate welfare to the faithful in the chamber of commerce set, while begging for the lives of Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida – two “public/private” partnerships (that means a mechanism for transitioning public funds to private interests) – schemes that are set to be shut down like cheap confidence games by the House Careers and Competition subcommittee.
The subcommittee recently voted to approve a bill proposed by Rep. Paul Renner – who serves all of Flagler County, and portions of St. John’s and Volusia – which would defund these thieving rackets once and for all.
According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, Renner told the committee, “…economic incentives “steal” money from core priorities that benefit all taxpayers and are wrong “because they pick winners and losers.”
Rep. Renner is spot-on.
The newspaper also pointed out that a recent study by the state’s Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability reported that contributions to Enterprise Florida from the private sector rarely exceed $2 million per year – while the state has appropriated an average of $20 million annually.
Public/Private my ass.
As for Visit Florida – the same accountability office noted that it’s nearly impossible to tell exactly what the tourism agency does for us – or to quantify the efforts of Visit Florida versus the countless other publicly funded agencies and advertising authorities marketing Florida as a vacation destination.
State accountability reports be damned – Governor Scott is asking for a mindboggling $76 million dollars for Visit Florida – and $85 million for Enterprise Florida.
Last year, we learned that Visit Florida entered a secretive deal with rapper “Pitbull” which paid the entertainer some $1 million of our hard-earned tax dollars to market Florida tourism on social media and during concerts.
In addition, equally sketchy contracts with an English soccer league and a racing interest were also kept from the public. These multi-million dollar fiascoes resulted in the untimely departure of CEO Will Seccombe and two highly placed underlings.
Look, I have a sneaking suspicion that the State of Florida – and every county “visitor’s bureau” and redundant marketing agency in the state – could shut down tomorrow and it wouldn’t have a measurable effect on tourism.
Hell, if we simply posted a daily static snippet from the Weather Channel showing 80-degree temperatures on Valentine’s Day – we would double tourism figures this month alone.
Regardless, we don’t need $100,000 spots from Danica Patrick – or goofy “Seize the Daytona” slogans to sell that.
Locally, when we clean up this squalid outhouse – people will come. In droves.
In my view, much like our local elected officials, Scott is intent on building a pseudo-economy based upon artificial economic giveaways, subsidies and tax incentives which tip the playing field and ignore the importance of free-market competition.
It’s how the right people get paid. With our money.
An excellent 2015 editorial in the Tampa Bay Times, entitled “Florida cannot afford Scott’s corporate welfare,” hit the sweet spot:
By all appearances, Florida is broken. It cannot afford to build new highway lanes unless it slaps tolls on them. It is looking to allow hunting in state parks, which have been told they have to pay for themselves. Public schools struggle to pay for basic maintenance, and the University of Florida president’s highest hope is for a new boiler. The Justice Department is investigating the dangerous state prison system, and it also should investigate the shameful abuse and neglect exposed by the Tampa Bay Times and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in state mental hospitals. The overburdened courts scrimp by on less than 1 percent of the state budget, and children continue to die from neglect and abuse even after they are on the state’s radar. Look in any direction, and the state’s basic infrastructure is crumbling as Scott travels in his private jet to Kentucky and New York to bribe companies with taxpayer handouts to bring jobs here.
In my view, the base unfairness of government determining which businesses will enjoy the benefits of economic incentives and non-natural props, and which will be allowed to wither and die, is patently wrong – and counter to our values and the principles of fair play.
Never forget – Rick Scott could give two-shits about the rules. He’s a journeyman thief, and laws and regulations are for rubes.
Still need convincing?
In 1993, a former accountant hired by Columbia/HCA, Scott’s former hospital chain, tipped the FBI that the company was preparing two sets of books – one for the federal government, the other for “internal record-keeping.”
The resulting probe resulted in Columbia/HCA paying $1.7 billion (with a “B”) in fines for defrauding Medicare and Medicaid – the largest healthcare fraud settlement in United States history.
And he had the balls to deny any involvement.
That’s how stupid the governor thinks we are.
As Slick Rick continues to ride the range, openly bullying local government leaders into supporting his outrageous budget proposals and putting the fear of higher taxes in the hearts of small business owners in places like Flagler Beach, the rest of us should openly question the role of government in the marketplace – and the sleazy motives of our reptilian Governor and his uber-rich cronies.
My instincts tell me, “Once a thief, always a thief.”
And my experience tells me there is no honor among thieves.