Florida legislators have eliminated many subsidy programs in response to advocacy by community groups as well as negative subsidy audits. Nevertheless, corporations can still extract large deals from the state residents. In 2021, for example, Walt Disney got $570 million in tax breaks for simply moving office jobs from California. Some state programs also require cities or counties to provide a local match. Those local additions usually come in a form of tax exemptions or diversions.
Notably, state law prohibits the abatement of school taxes, which Good Jobs First considers a best practice when it comes to economic development.
Enterprise Florida (EFL), a private economic development agency funded with public money, markets the state, negotiates deals, and enters into agreements with companies. The Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) manages the subsidies.
The DEO hosts on its website an “Incentive Portal” with recipients, subsidy payments, and outcomes data. However, despite its status as the “Sunshine State,” Florida has critical shortcomings in its transparency practices – deals executed by economic development agencies are exempt from the state’s public records law for two years and, before deals are executed, businesses seeking subsidies are granted confidential status on the grounds that it is “proprietary business information.” Most local subsidies lack transparency as well (Sarasota County is an exception).
State subsidy costs, along with other data, are available in the EFL/DEO annual incentive reports posted to those agency websites. The Office of Economic and Demographic Research publishes annual “Local Government Economic Development Incentives Reports” with local subsidy costs but without company names
The state reports on more than a dozen programs under the GASB 77 rule but only some localities report abatements under the rule.
The Economic Development Programs Evaluation law requires a robust review of the state’s economic development subsidies, and it’s one of the best outcomes and cost benefit evaluations in the country. Those audits are performed every three years by two independent legislative offices—the Office of Economic and Demographic Research (EDR) and the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA).