- Gov. Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 5, dissolving Enterprise Florida and transferring its functions to the Department of Economic Opportunity.
- The legislation renames the Department of Economic Opportunity as the Department of Commerce, with J. Alex Kelly becoming the new Commerce Secretary.
- According to Rep. Tiffany Esposito, expunging Enterprise Florida and its associated tax programs will save the state approximately $100 million dollars.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 5 into law this week, effectively dissolving Enterprise Florida, the state’s business-recruitment agency.
The measure consolidates the agency’s functions with those of the Department of Economic Opportunity, optimizes the state’s economic development system, and removes certain programs and incentives.
Under the legislation, the Department of Economic Opportunity will also be renamed as the Department of Commerce, with J. Alex Kelly, who previously served as deputy chief of staff to DeSantis, becoming the new Commerce Secretary.
Lawmakers moved to initiate the dissolution of Enterprise Florida during budget negotiations last month, curbing $12 million in funding while laying the groundwork to transfer some of the agency’s operations to the Department of Economic Opportunity.
The business recruitment agency was thrust to the centerfold of the larger state budget discussions after House Speaker Paul Renner called for its elimination, stating that it “over-promised and under-delivered for years and drains funds from higher priorities.”
Rep. Tiffany Esposito told the House Ways and Means Committee in April that expunging Enterprise Florida and its associated tax programs would save the state approximately $100 million dollars.
“About half of the programs are either expired or have never been used, or have minimum applications; and when I say minimal, I mean one application,” said Esposito. “This bill is cleaning up a lot of statutes that needed to be cleaned up anyways. This is estimated to save the state about $100 million dollars.”
Esposito explained that 90 percent of the tax credits granted within the Urban High-Crime Area Job Tax Credit Program — the program facing the highest level of scrutiny over a potential dissolution — were distributed to just ten companies. Though she didn’t mention the companies by name, Esposito stated that they were each large businesses operating within the state and that one single large company accounted for 54 percent of all tax credits received.
Another program, the Capital Investment Tax Credit, yielded a negative .58 percent return on investment for the state, leading to its inclusion in the list of axed initiatives. Similarly, the New Markets Development Program yielded a negative .98 return on investment.
Following the analysis, conservative political advocacy group Americans For Prosperity – Florida (AFP-FL) publicly backed the bill.
“Enterprise Florida has long failed to live up to its founding mission of encouraging private sector job growth and promoting Florida’s overall economic health,” said AFP-FL State Director Skylar Zander. “It’s about time this ineffective, unnecessary organization is eliminated and its funding placed within the better-equipped Department of Economic Opportunity.
Senate President Kathleen Passidomo lent support to the shuttering efforts, suggesting that aspects of the agency could be folded into the Department of Economic Opportunity, such as trade missions, but that the public-private agency overall “just doesn’t seem to be as effective as we would like.”
The decision to dismantle Enterprise Florida has not gone without criticism. Some individuals, including Donald Trump, have raised concerns regarding the transfer of recurring expenses to taxpayers. The former President has specifically taken aim at DeSantis, citing the governor’s frequent travels outside of Florida for fundraising and business trips, such as a recent trade mission to Japan, South Korea, Israel, and the United Kingdom.
“The “Consultants” are sending [DeSantis], and demanding he go immediately, on an emergency Round the World tour of U.S representative population countries, like South Korea, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Israel,” said Trump in a Truth Social post. “Perhaps he can, and perhaps he can’t, who really knows, but he’ll have plenty of time to think as he sits alone, on his taxpayer-funded airplane.”
A News Service of Florida report shows that taxpayers footed more than $100,000 for a six-day trip to Israel in 2019 embarked upon by DeSantis and members of the state Cabinet.
“Florida taxpayers, however, were hit with a tab of more than $131,000 to cover lodging, airfare, and other travel costs for Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, three of her aides, Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis’ chief of staff, Attorney General Ashley Moody’s general counsel, three staffers with the governor’s office and security provided by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement,” reads the article.