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My Turn
Other Views from Those in the Know
Dan Krassner
Executive Director
Release Details of Secret Taxpayer-Funded Projects

Did you know that millions of Florida tax dollars are being given away to private companies each year in secret?  Enterprise Florida, the official economic development organization of the State of Florida, is secretly planning new tax-dollar giveaways to companies with code names “Project Bacon,” “Project Mae West,” “Project Suite Spot” and “Project Snake Eyes.”  Doesn’t the public have a right to know immediately when our tax dollars are being given away to private companies?  

Integrity Florida research has uncovered that Enterprise Florida has given Walmart more than $18million over the years; it's given money to GE, Coca-Cola, Burger King and a long list of other companies.  The Orlando Sentinel has compiled many of these past Enterprise Florida expenditures into an online database.  While many of these projects have been successful in creating jobs and supporting Florida communities, transparency surrounding them is lacking.  It is our belief that when a company receives an economic development tax break or incentive, taxpayers ought to know about it.

Larry Barszewski broke the story about the code names given to prospective Enterprise Florida projects in his March 24 article in the Sun Sentinel.  On March 26, Integrity Florida sent a public records request to Enterprise Florida seeking the full list of projects already funded or in progress with these code names, including details about their locations and planned budgets.  Any details we acquire will be released to the public on our website www.integrityflorida.org

The Florida Legislature just passed CS/HB 7115, sponsored by Rep. Jimmy Patronis and Sen. Evelyn Lynn, a bill that shortens the secrecy period for finalized taxpayer-funded projects from two years to 180 days.  Gov. Rick Scott approved this bill on March 23 following a 39-0 vote in the Senate and a 116-0 vote in the House.  The governor and our legislators should be applauded for moving in the right direction for quicker public disclosure of economic development project details, but the legislation still leaves the door open for some projects to remain secret for up to two years.

Next session, the Legislature should close all of the public records loopholes that allow taxpayer-funded projects to be kept secret for even a day after they are funded.  When the public’s money is spent, the public deserves to know immediately who received every penny.

In the meantime, we call upon Enterprise Florida to publicly release more details about their in-progress projects and to release the company names and details of every project already funded with our tax dollars.

Dan Krassner is the Executive Director of Integrity Florida, a nonpartisan research institute whose mission is to promote integrity in government and expose public corruption.

Editors Note: Rosemary Goudreau, editor and CEO of Florida Voices, is a board member of Integrity Florida. 

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by Dr. Radut.