When the Florida House of Representatives voted Friday to do away with the much-embattled Florida Enterprise – the program Gov. Rick Scott loyally supported and, oppositely, Speaker Richard Corcoran virulently chided – special interest groups who had worked tirelessly for its eradication jumped for joy.
None celebrated more than the Florida branch of Americans for Prosperity (AFP-FL), which bills itself as the leading grassroots advocacy organization campaigning against corporate welfare, which is what Speaker Corcoran had called it in the media battle between he waged with Gov. Scott on the program.
It had become the chief example of government waste in citizen tax dollars.
AFP-FL is still celebrating, long after the vote because their effort to educate legislators – some of whom voted against their own party to pass HB 7005, as the measure is known – constituents and Floridians at large was a sizable effort, according to AFP-FL’s communications director, Andres Malave, who spoke passionately about what he called the common sense aspect of the bill evening the playing field for everyone in the Sunshine State.
“We’ve been hammering on the failures of Enterprise Florida for several years because the taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for financing some billionaire’s football stadium … or their competition’s business across the street,” Malave told FloridaPolitics.com by phone after the vote Friday. “Again, we ask that the Florida Senate push this bill forward to the governor’s desk and make him sign it because, ultimately, this is what’s best for Florida’s taxpayers.”
The spokesman for the group said it took “courage” for members of the Florida House of Representatives to vote in eliminating the quasi-state agency, along with a laundry list of other wasteful spending programs that give private businesses taxpayer dollars.
“It takes courage to do the right thing,” Chris Hudson, AFP-FL’s state director, said. “We applaud the leaders of the Florida House that stood up to enormous outside pressures to keep a rigged system in place. Enterprise Florida sends taxpayers the wrong message: that government believes it can be a better investor of their dollars and that we should accept our money being plucked from our pockets to be redistributed to the wealthy and well-connected.”
In 2013, AFP-FL and Integrity Florida released a comprehensive study to demonstrate the failures of Enterprise Florida. EFI fell short of their job-creation goals. EFI fell short of securing the level of required private funding support. EFI’s lack of transparency resulted in outlandish executive bonuses or extravagant purchases. Finally, EFI is guilty of promoting a culture of state government favoritism that funneled benefits to companies while not offering those same benefits to competitors or all businesses that existed in the state or that wanted to come to Florida.
“In 2016, AFP-FL advocated against a $250 million allocation request by Governor Rick Scott to EFI,” Malave said. “The 2016 legislative session resulted in an allocation of $0 for EFI after AFP-FL mobilized their grassroots army to make over 350,000 phone calls and over 250,000 contacts by going door-to-door, they launched an aggressive social media effort and an intensive direct mail campaign to educate Floridians about the failures at EFI and what votes lawmakers were taking in Tallahassee.”
Scott’s response to the House vote was passed around by the media quickly.
“Today, politicians in the Florida House passed job-killing legislation,” the governor said in a statement. “We can all agree that VISIT FLORIDA and EFI need to be absolutely accountable and transparent, and both agencies have already taken major steps and implemented reforms to ensure their operations meet our high expectations.
“However, today’s actions by the House curb the mission of VISIT FLORIDA and bury it in more government bureaucracy — along with decimating Florida’s economic tool kit and the very programs which are directly tied to the creation of thousands of jobs for Florida families. … But, I want to be very clear — a vote for these bills was a vote to kill tourism and jobs in Florida.”