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Florida editorial roundup

October 29, 2013
Associated Press

Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:

Oct. 28

Tampa (Fla.) Tribune on keeping watch on economic development:

Gov. Rick Scott and Florida lawmakers who are quick to shovel money to economic development should review a study that found the public-private partnerships states often use to pursue new business frequently result in waste, conflicts, extravagant salaries and lack of oversight.

Florida was among the eight states outsourcing economic development functions that were reviewed in the study by Good Jobs First, a nonprofit research center.

Two years ago, a state report found about one-third of the 729 subsidy contracts that Florida had signed with businesses over 10 years did not bring the promised results.

The Tribune's Mike Sasso earlier this year discovered Enterprise Florida's 2012 Annual Incentives Report omitted failing ventures in a program that offers upfront funding to relocating companies.

Sasso found 13 companies that participated in the Quick Action Closing Fund failed to generate the required jobs, and were left out of the official tabulation. He also found two companies that were listed as hitting their goals actually were 1,300 jobs behind schedule.

Yet Enterprise Florida listed the state's economic incentive efforts as 600 jobs ahead of schedule.

The Good Jobs First study also recounts how Enterprise Florida badly misses its private fundraising targets. ...

Independent government watchdog Integrity Florida pointed out earlier this year that just more than 2 percent of Enterprise Florida's revenue came from private investment contributions.

Another detail:

Enterprise Florida Executive Director Gray Swoope was given a $70,000 bonus — atop his $230,000 annual salary — for "promised" jobs that had not yet been created.

Florida is hardly the only state with questionable economic development practices.

A state audit found more than 40 percent of the jobs promised by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation never materialized.

Jobs Ohio obtained more than $5 million public dollars without its Legislature's knowledge, widely intermingled public and private funds, and refused to name its private donors, though they may stand to benefit from the agency's subsidies.

There is no question Florida and other states need to invest in economic development, and providing financial incentives to attract companies is often necessary in today's highly competitive climate.

But the report indicates entrusting such decisions to quasi-private operations without ensuring rigorous oversight and accountability is inviting waste, if not scandal.



Oct. 29

The News-Journal, Daytona Beach, Fla., on nation needs grand bargain, despite Nelson's pessimism:

It's a sad state of affairs when members of Congress realize the need for a grand bargain on the budget but cannot work toward one.

One of the pessimistic federal lawmakers is Florida's own U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat. He recently told a Sarasota audience that there likely won't be another government shutdown next year.

But neither will there be a major compromise between Republicans and Democrats to address the national debt, the annual budget deficits and more, he said.

Nelson told the Sarasota audience not to expect a "grand bargain."

Instead, Nelson expects a smaller deal that will take the rough edges off the next round of budget cuts scheduled. These are the cuts known as sequester.

Nelson's remarks are disappointing, because he is one of 28 members of a select committee of House and Senate members who will work on budget compromises. Their deadline is mid-December. If all fails, another shutdown could commence Jan. 15.

Nelson's remarks, reported by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, indicate the senator is chiefly concerned with further sequester cuts, which were devised in 2011 as a way to force compromise.

The sequester grew out of the failure of a previous select committee after the last government standoff in 2011. ...

The Budget Control Act's congressional panel failed to compromise, so the sequester began to take effect on March 1. Deeper cuts begin on Jan. 15, and Nelson says they will decimate NASA's space program.

That's a major concern for Volusia County and its neighbors. ...

While cuts in social spending and the military should be made, they should be made prudently.

So Nelson and others on the select committee need to buck up and shed the pessimism. The nation badly needs a grand bargain — an intelligent way to cut the $17 trillion debt over time, without crippling the Pentagon, NASA or programs for vulnerable people.

The debt is a serious issue, and Congress must end the excuses and stop keep kicking the can down the road.



Oct. 28

Miami Herald on state should follow Ohio's lead:

Earlier this month, Ohio became the 25th state to decide that it would accept federal funding to expand Medicaid, giving more Americans health insurance coverage that they could not otherwise afford.

The political courage displayed by Ohio Gov. John Kasich stands in marked contrast to Florida's failure to sign up for Medicaid expansion and the indecisiveness of Gov. Rick Scott.

Like Mr. Scott, Gov. Kasich is a conservative Republican. He is the eighth Republican governor to oversee Medicaid expansion. The decision means Ohioans can enroll in Medicaid if they earn less than 138 percent of the federal poverty level.

In accepting the federal funds, Gov. Kasich offered both a moral and practical justification for his action. ...

None of this should be particularly controversial. It's about offering those who are among the most vulnerable the chance to have better health. Shouldn't that be a reasonable aim of good government?

Yet it has raised a storm of protest among conservatives in Ohio because Medicaid expansion is part of the Affordable Care Act that many of them detest. They have gone so far as to file a lawsuit to stop Ohio from accepting the federal money and the way that the governor made an end run around the Republican-controlled Legislature to get the funds.

Kasich is standing his ground. Apparently, he knows a good deal when he sees it and is not afraid to buck his own party on behalf of a good cause.

Now back to Florida.

Gov. Scott, though opposing Obamacare, did the math and sided with Medicaid expansion here, a sensible move that would have returned an estimated $51 billion in federal funds to Florida over the next 10 years and created an estimated 120,000 new jobs. ...

Ohio has joined those states willing to put common sense and good governance ahead of partisan politics and ideology when it comes to Medicaid. How long will it take Florida to wake up?




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