Editorial: Praise to Representative Renner for his dissent

Michael Gold, Editor

Economic incentives and tax breaks for certain businesses have been in the news this week as their fate has been argued in Tallahassee. Palm Coast Representative Paul Renner is the sponsor of legislation that could eliminate those benefits that he says disproportionately advantage larger companies over smaller ones.

Also under review by the Florida House Subcommittee on Careers and Competition are two controversial agencies supported by Governor Scott, “Enterprise Florida” and “Visit Florida” — the latter of which could have a significant impact on St Augustine and St Johns County.

“Incentives are a bad deal for taxpayers because they steal money from priorities such as public safety, roads and bridges, and education,” Renner told reporters this week.

Ballsy. I like that; but then, I am the consummate defender of entrepreneurs and their small businesses. The measure passed the House subcommittee.

The House panel approved the bill by a vote of 10 in favor and five opposed, eliminating the Qualified Target Industries and Quick Action Closing Fund programs, which have provided tax breaks for companies that promise to create jobs. The incentives are not paid until the companies fulfill their promises, per economic development officials.

“When we give money to one company we disadvantage their competitors,” Renner said in support of the action. “We don’t assess in our return-on-investment the negative impact on many businesses, competitors, and especially our small businesses.”

There are those who are concerned about the impact of eliminating Visit Florida, the state agency that promotes tourism. And, of course, there are parts of the state that benefit more than others by tourism — our area being one of the major beneficiaries.

For me, I find tax-funded Visit Florida and the bed tax-funded Visitors and Convention Bureau to be duplicative. The VCB has made it clear in communications to Historic City News that none of the millions collected from the local bed tax can be spent with local communications sources. Instead, the focus is to pay out-of-state media to lure visitors from across the nation (and the world) to St Johns County.

What happens after the tourists arrive? It is apparently of little consequence. Not even a nod to impassable traffic congestion, an antiquated draw bridge that seems to stay up or out of service as much as it stays open, or museums and public venues, built in the 1890’s and rotting in place, standing only with the help of termites holding hands.

Maybe “Visit Florida” should be kept and the local bed tax along with the privately owned and county-contracted Visitors and Convention Bureau should be eliminated?

The Florida Senate Appropriations Committee considered the issue yesterday when it had a hearing on the governor’s budget.

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