- Rep. Tiffany Esposito told the House Ways & Means Committee on Thursday that cutting 25 programs associated with Enterprise Florida would save the state close to $100 million.
- Esposito said around half the programs were either expired or barely used, and the bill was intended to save money by eliminating them.
- The House Ways & Means Committee voted in favor of the measure, with just six Democrat lawmakers opposing it.
Rep. Tiffany Esposito stated on Thursday that the dissolution of Enterprise Florida and programs within the organization would save the state approximately $100 million dollars. Esposito filed House Bill 5 (HB 5) on March 6, which seeks to transfer Enterprise Florida’s functions to the Department of Economic Opportunity.
The bill aims to streamline the state’s economic development system and eliminate certain programs and incentives such as the Florida Small Business Technology Program, Microfinance programs, and the Office of Film and Entertainment, among others.
Though committee members largely expressed support for Esposito’s bill, apprehensions reared regarding the elimination of programs such as the Florida Small Business Development Network — a state and federally-funded organization that provides free consulting, training, and resources to help small businesses start.
Esposito, however, referred to the list of 25 programs facing a death spell as a necessary action, citing low return on investment or minimal use in practice.
“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 statute that needed to be cleaned up anyways. This is estimated to save the state about $100 million dollars.”
Esposito further 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.
“The program is not something that is helping all Floridians,” she said. “It’s a corporate handout and it needs to be repealed. There are 3 million small businesses within the state and we need to be investing in infrastructure and workforce education – things that help all of our businesses, not just large ones.”
Another program, the Capital Investment Tax Credit, yields a negative .58 percent return on investment for the state, leading to its inclusion in the list of potentially axed initiatives. Similarly, the New Markets Development Program yields a negative .98 return on investment.
“Not only do we lose all of our investment, but we incur an additional cost,” said Esposito. “Again, large companies are benefiting from that, and [we need] to use taxpayer dollars as efficiently as possible.”
The House Ways & Means Committee voted favorably on the measure Thursday, with just six Democrat lawmakers standing in opposition.
Senate President Kathleen Passidomo lent support to HB 5’s effort to shutter Enterprise Florida this month, 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.”
Further, House Speaker Paul Renner told reporters that people and businesses have come to the state without needing incentives from EPI. He said that the $13 million provided this year to the agency could be better used in other ways.
The legislation has also received the backing of major business and political groups within the state, including Americans For Prosperity.
“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.
Business interests run Florida. Do we really have to subsidize them more?