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Minority Office — Press Release


January 29, 2014

CONTACT: Michelle DeMarco, 850.487.5833

Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith Comments on the Governor’s Budget Priorities

Tallahassee —

Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith (D-Ft. Lauderdale) on Wednesday released the following comments on the Governor’s proposed economic priorities:

 “With an election year upon us, we’re expecting lots of ‘feel good’ proposals from the governor, and the budget he released on Wednesday was no exception. Four years ago, Rick Scott spent $70 million of his own money to win the election. This year, he’s preparing to spend $500 million of Floridians’ tax dollars to do the same thing.

 “There’s a disconnect between the governor and the people he promised to govern. He’s channeled his power into helping the well-connected, while everyone else has been pushed to the sidelines. Whether it’s rising insurance rates, cuts to Bright Futures awards, or courting an abundance of low paying jobs to replace the good paying ones, the middle class has not been the priority of this governor.

 ”Just last week, he released Florida’s latest unemployment numbers, touting a .2 percent drop in the unemployment rate.  But buried in his press release were some pretty frightening numbers. Because while the state may be at an average of 6.2 percent, some counties aren’t as fortunate. Here are some numbers you may have missed: Hendry County 10.2%, Flagler 8.8%, Hamilton 8.4%, Madison 8.2%, Putnam 8.1%,  and Dixie at 7.8% - just to name a few. And here’s another tidbit buried in the release: ‘Many of the counties with the lowest unemployment rates were those with relatively high proportions of government employment.’

 “So here we are again, with the governor’s latest budget proposal promising the ‘same old, same old’ approach to revitalizing our economy by throwing money at CEO’s and hoping for the best. So far, what we’ve been getting doesn’t add up to what he’s been spending.

 “Recently, the Herald and Tampa Bay Times took a closer look at the governor’s policies promising to create jobs here.Remember, he pledged to create 700,000 private sector jobs in 7 years – on top of the one million expected to be created had he done absolutely nothing. Well, the papers found that since taking office, Governor Scott committed to $266 million in tax breaks and other incentives in return for 45,258 new jobs. But 96 percent of the jobs have yet to materialize.

 “Since taking office, many of the jobs the governor takes credit for adding have been in the low wage sector, like leisure and hospitality. And, as the newspapers’ investigation noted, call centers. Take Sitel, a Tennessee company that reportedly landed one of the state’s incentives packages. Its requirement to reap an annual $1 million tax credit? To have at least 500 people on the payroll in 2015 and pay them each at least $9.50 an hour – or $19,860 a year. That might be a decent wage if you’re young and just starting out, but for a family of four – and many of the job seekers today are supporting families - that’s about $3700 below the U.S. poverty level.

 “So while our state hemorrhaged good middle class jobs in manufacturing and construction without any intervention from Tallahassee, the governor has been picking his own “winners” list that hasn’t been doing much winning. And tax payers are still on the losing end.

 “Consider the announcement this week from Governor Scott that Cancer Treatment Centers of America was relocating to Boca from Chicago. The incentives are still secret, but they were reportedly enough to offset Illinois’ lucrative incentives offer.

 “What’s interesting about this deal is that it’s not the entire company that’s coming. It’s just the top executives and some of their top employees – about 225 in total – leaving hundreds behind.

 “So Floridians’ tax dollars are being used to relocate top executives and select employees to the Sunshine State – with no additional guarantees that any promising opportunities for Floridians will follow.

 “That’s why I hope my colleagues have the good sense to see there’s a problem here and the numbers aren’t adding up.In this election year, while the governor may be doing a re-invention and finally promising more money for education (likely on the backs of our homeowners through  higher local property taxes), infrastructure, and the environment, he’s still plunging ahead with more corporate give-away’s that may never return anything to help the middle class in this state.

“Just ask the people in Hendry, Flagler, Hamilton, Madison, Putnam and Dixie Counties how that ‘let’s get to work’ has been working out for them.”