Big business tax break brings little benefit, critics say - FOX 35 News Orlando

Big business tax break brings little benefit, critics say

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Governor Scott's call for jobs drove a big tax break for big business. But critics claim one big tax cut has not delivered one new job, and the losers in the deal are the people of Florida.

Former State Representative Rick Kriseman says the tax break gives big companies a bonus for doing what they're already doing.

"Taxpayers ought to be very upset about it," Kriseman said.

It stems from a bill that state lawmakers voted on last year that they had not fully read, and that they passed it in the middle of the night.

"I'd like to make sure we know what's in the bill," Senator Evalynn Lynn said at the time.

"I don't know the substance of this House bill," echoed Rep. Ronda Storms.

They passed the "Single Sales Factor" exemption. Now, any Florida company that spends at least $250 million building things in Florida over two years can get a tax break. They still pay tax on sales, but they don't have to pay a dime of state income tax on their property or payroll.

 

"This will pay great dividends for the people of Florida," said Senator Thad Altman.

But most companies can't qualify, because they don't have $250 million to spend. So far, only five companies intend to pursue the tax break.

Publix is one of those companies. It qualified by building new stores and facilities. But by email, a spokeswoman said it would have committed to those investments without this tax incentive -- so the tax cut created 'no' new jobs.

The parent company of Florida Power and Light and TECO also qualified, because they're doing hundreds of millions of dollars in maintenance -- everything from building new power lines to replacing equipment at power plants.

"These are programs that are part of our planned maintenance," said spokesman Cherie Jacobs.

In other words, the tax break created no new jobs.

Tampa phosphate company Mosaic qualified by building a new warehouse and a golf resort in Polk/Highlands County.

"We decided to build the resort in 2009," said Mosaic spokesman Russ Schweiss.

That's two years before the single sales factor incentive passed.

And the warehouse?

"We were fully permitted for construction in 2009," Schweiss said. "It's certainly possible we would have moved forward on this project without it, but ultimately there are a number of factors that come into play."

So we cannot verify any new jobs here.

Finally, CSX intends to apply for this cut. It sold a rail line to the state for $432 million, and is using the money to fix up its property.

"They get paid too much, and then they're given the icing on cake -- yet another tax break," said Bill Newton, with the Consumer Action Network.

The rail deal required CSX to upgrade, so once again, the big tax cut sold as a job booster would not actually boost job numbers.

"Who are we really helping?" Kriseman asks.

Kriseman claims lawmakers are trying to help themselves by rewarding big donors. In the past two campaign cycles, those five companies each gave hundreds of thousands in political donations.

"So how do you keep seats? You build your war chest up," Kriseman said.

But we could not tie the donations to this specific tax break, and the donors say they support candidates who support good business

"That can't be viewed as some sort of purchased policy. That is policy the state pursues to remain more competitive," Schweiss said.

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