TALLAHASSEE – Last week, Governor Rick Scott announced that he was reportedly committing up to $100,000 in taxpayer dollars to file suit against Digital Domain Media Group over its failure to comply with a $20 million economic incentives award negotiated, in part, by the previous governor.
On Friday, Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith (D-Ft. Lauderdale) called on Governor Scott to examine his own economic deals as well.
“While I wholeheartedly applaud holding companies, their owners, and government officials accountable when a deal risking taxpayers’ money fails to materialize, I am very concerned about the prospects of committing an additional $100,000 of tax dollars to pursue one incident while ignoring the growing body of evidence that Digital Domain is hardly an isolated case,” wrote Senator Smith in a letter hand delivered to the governor’s office on Friday.
The questioning by the Senate Democratic Leader stems from a series of stories published by the Miami Herald earlier this year in which the newspaper reported that of the $266,166,758 pledged by Governor Scott and his administration in exchange for corporate promises to create 45,258 jobs here in Florida, the state had shelled out $22,028,680 for a grand total of just 1,939 jobs – or a 4 percent compliance rate.
In addition, Senator Smith noted a number of those deals had troubling details, including projects where money was doled out but no jobs ever materialized, awards to a company that reversed the ratio of full time/part-time employees, and money pledged to another followed by corporate layoffs.
“Given the overwhelming failure of most of the current financial deals to produce the jobs companies promised in exchange for a commitment of Floridians’ money, there appears the very real possibility that examples such as these may be the norm, rather than the exception,” he noted.
To answer that question, Senator Smith requested an accounting from the governor of the total financial awards to date, the amount that has been paid out, the number of companies that have fully complied, the number of jobs pledged, the number actually created to date, whether the jobs met the conditions (i.e. the salary projections for each job, not simply averages in a division), and finally, the number of companies that have received money and subsequently failed to comply or folded operations through bankruptcy or other default methods.
“It is my sincere hope that your litigation against Digital Domain is for all the right reasons, and not simply an expensive legal foray for political purposes in an election year,” wrote Senator Smith. “I equally hope that your commitment to accountability is as strong for the current Administration’s own actions as that of your predecessor.”