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6 posts from June 18, 2013

June 18, 2013

No decision from Miami-Dade commissioners on leftover Dolphins elections cash


Deciding what to do with left over cash from the Miami Dolphins’ short-lived referendum on stadium improvements proved too much Tuesday for Miami-Dade commissioners.

After delaying a vote earlier this month and considering three competing spending proposals at length, board members declared a stalemate, conceding they could not agree on any of the plans.

Instead, they asked the administration to bank the windfall — about $2.3 million — in the county’s general fund. They will decide during the next few months how to spend the money in next year’s budget.

The anticlimactic conclusion came after a tug-of-war among commissioners on the dais. At one point it appeared that practically each one had a different idea of where the dollars should go.

“Before the budget, it’s very easy for us to give money away,” Chairwoman Rebeca Sosa said. “But then when the budget time comes and we have to talk about either increasing taxes or asking our employees to make sacrifices, that is when things get hard on this table.”

The money was left over from the nearly $4.8 million nonrefundable payment the Dolphins made to the county to cover the costs of a proposed May 14 special election. The referendum was called off after the Florida House of Representatives concluded its annual legislative session without taking up a bill required for the election to take place.

More here.

Amazon giveaways popular, even if company doesn't need them

When Amazon expands, like it wants to in Florida, state and local governments practically line up to offer to pay the company to move.

Virginia officials approved $4.4 million in taxpayer subsidies so Amazon could build two warehouses in the state. California reached a deal where the online company was free from sales taxes for a year, saving about $200 million. Texas officials forgave $269 million in back sales taxes to get a new warehouse. New Jersey officials put up millions more in breaks.

All the deals were cut in the past three years. All for a company that had $61.1 billion in sales last year.

On Wednesday Hillsborough County commissioners will consider a package that could include up to $7.5 million in local and state tax breaks for Amazon to build a new warehouse in Ruskin for 1,000 employees. Hillsborough's offer was disclosed last week, shortly after Gov. Rick Scott announced that Amazon wants to create 3,000 jobs in the state by 2016.

Yet enticements are so small in relation to Amazon's multibillion-dollar business that analysts don't even bother studying their affect on expansion.

"They are a spec on the radar," said Matt Nemer, a retail analyst for Wells Fargo Securities in San Francisco. "They're just not big enough to make a difference."

Here's the rationale for why Amazon gets the incentives, at considerable public expense, anyway.

Dems aren't ready to measure their candidates but they do have metrics on -- the JJ dinner

FLDEM infographicHere's a new one -- an infographic touting a dinner. This one is about the Florida Democratic Party's annual Jefferson Jackson dinner, held Saturday at the Westin Diplomat in Broward.

The party offers up on its web site its metrics for what says was an unprecedented number of attendees and $850,000 in money raised (compared to last year's $600,000.) It even measured the applause, with a decibel meter. 

Then there's what the graphic didn't measure:

* the rift between House Democrats;

* the rejection of former state Sen. Nan Rich, who is running for governor, from the speaker's platform;

* the reaction to Alex Sink, former CFO who narrowly lost to Rick Scott and is considering entering the race again; 

* or the crowd's receptiveness to likely-Democratic candidate and former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist.

 A new Quinnipiac University poll out today did take a measurement on some of those folks. Respondents said that if the election were held today both Crist and Sink would defeat incumbent Gov. Rick Scott while too few people know about Rich to judge her.  Download 061813 FL GOV POLL + BP

Update: Republican political consultant Brian Burgess notes that, based on a report published in the Palm Beach Post last year, Democratic Party organizers in 2012 actually reported a higher number of people in attendance (1,000) and a fundraising threshold of $750,000. 

"Either the Florida Democrats are lousy at math, or they're lousy at telling the truth,'' he said. 

Democratic Party spokesman Joshua Karp, who wasn't with the Florida party last year, responded that the actual number of attendees in 2012 was closer to 900 and the amount reported as raised was based on amount pledged. This year's number, he said, was based on checks delivered and he stands by the percentages reported.


Ex-Sen. Dockery: Florida GOP 'scared of Charlie Crist'

Former Republican state Sen. Paula Dockery of Lakeland says it was "kind of silly" and "dumb" that the Republican Party of Florida mounted a campaign urging that Democratic candidate for governor Nan Rich be given speaking time at last weekend's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Hollywood.

Dockery said that by promoting Nan Rich, Republicans showed their true colors.

"It looks like they're scared of Charlie Crist," Dockery said on the weekly public affairs program Florida This Week on WEDU-Channel 3 in Tampa. "They want to pump up Nan Rich, who was not getting much traction on her own ... I think it just sends the message that they're worried about Charlie Crist and it was kind of a dumb thing."

Puzzled by a Republican effort in support of a little-known Democratic candidate, Dockery said she fired off an email to party headquarters in Tallahassee, asking: "Who's your audience on this?"

-- Steve Bousquet

Kentucky governor hits back at Scott's job-poaching efforts

Gov. Rick Scott is targeting yet another state in his effort to poach out-of-state jobs -- and this time the other governor is firing back.

Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat, took issue with Scott's characterization of the Bluegrass State as a land of high taxes and anti-business regulation.

"Gov. Scott's description of the business climate in Kentucky is so far from the existing reality that one wonders whether he's had too much of that Florida sun (and the high property taxes that go with it)," Beshear said in a statement released Tuesday.

Beshear cited praise of Kentucky's business climate from Area Development magazine and a drop of 2.4 percentage points in the state's unemployment rate. Kentucky's unemployment rate is 7.9 percent; Florida's is 7.2 percent.

On his official web site, Beshear is touting the news that Toyota plans to soon begin assembly of the popular Lexus ES350 sedan at a plant in Georgetown, Ky.

Earlier, Scott sent letters to governors of California, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland and Minnesota, criticizing those states' business climates and seeking to persuade CEOs to move south.

Scott and Beshear have a history. Two years ago, Beshear lobbied Scott to support a prescription drug monitoring system in an effort to reduce the high number of fatal drug overdoses caused by "pill mills" in Florida. Scott initially refused, but later did support the drug database.

-- Steve Bousquet 

Gov. Scott gains ground in new statewide poll, but trails Crist by 10

Gov. Rick Scott's poll numbers are showing signs of progress, but he would still lose to former Gov. Charlie Crist by 10 points if the 2014 election were held today, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll.

Still one of America's least popular governors, Scott trails Crist 47 percent  to 37 percent in a face-off between the Republican governor and his possible now-Democratic rival.

But the poll contains a glimmer of hope for Scott: Voters are closely divided in their assessment of his job performance, with 43 percent approving and 44 percent disapproving. That's a significant improvement over the previous Quinnipiac poll in March, when 36 percent of voters approved of Scott's performance and 49 percent disapproved.

The percentage of voters who have a favorable view of Scott is up to 40 percent, the highest since he took office nearly two-and-a-half years ago. But he has persistent problems with women, who favor Crist by 51 to 32 percent, and Hispanics favor Crist over Scott, 40-33 percent.

Crist's 13 percent share of Republican crossover votes is slightly higher than Scott's 8 percent share of Democrats.

Voters still say by a margin of 50 percent to 35 percent that Scott does not deserve to be re-elected, but that too is an improvement over the previous survey in March, when 55 percent said he didn't deserve a second term and 32 percent said he did.

"It is an indication of how far down Gov. Rick Scott's numbers have been that he can take some solace from a poll that finds him losing by 10 points to his predecessor in the governor's office," said Quinnipiac's Peter Brown. "In addition to cutting the deficit between himself and Crist, Scott sees his tepid job approval and favorability numbers and still-negative re-election numbers as notably improved. That doesn't mean that happy days are here again for the governor, but if he is going to make a comeback, these are the kinds of steps that would be required."

Voters have a favorable view of Crist by a margin of 48 to 31 percent. For Scott, that number is 40 percent favorable, 42  percent unfavorable.

By a margin of 47 to 44 percent, voters said Crist's switch to the Democratic Party is a positive thing, including 53 percent of independent voters. Speaking of independents, they favor Crist over Scott for governor by 45 percent to 33 percent.

The poll also shows that U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson would defeat Scott, 48-38 percent, but that Scott would defeat former Senate Democratic leader Nan Rich, 42-36 percent. Rich is one of three announced Democratic candidate for governor in 2014, and Nelson has repeatedly said he has no intention of running for governor. Quinnipiac did not ask voters about Alex Sink, the Democratic nominee in 2010 who is considering another bid.

Nelson does slightly better with independent voters against Scott (48-33 percent) than Crist.

Scott travels the state extensively claiming credit for improvements in Florida's economy, and the poll suggests that message is slowly getting through to Florida voters. One-third of them said the economy in Florida is getting better, and 14 percent said Scott deserves "a lot" of credit for that and 44 percent say he deserves "some" credit.

The bottom line: Scott's numbers were close to rock bottom and they had nowhere to go but up. The headline on Quinnipiac's news release summed it up nicely: "Gov's grades are low, but best ever."

Quinnipiac surveyed 1,176 Florida voters from June 11-16. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points.

-- Steve Bousquet