Bush seeks $630 million for industry, research


Published: Tuesday, January 31, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 30, 2006 at 11:33 p.m.
Stressing the ongoing need to diversify the state's economy and create more high-tech, high-paying jobs, Gov. Jeb Bush on Monday said he will ask the Legislature for $630 million to pay for business startups and bolster growth of technology industries.
Bush said he wants to use an expected tax surplus to pay for five economic development proposals ranging from $100 million to help universities attract leading researchers to $50 million for cash incentives to lure companies to Florida.
At a meeting of the Board of Governors last week, University of Florida President Bernie Machen praised Bush's efforts to help universities attract the nation's most talented researchers.
Bush's $100 million initiative, called the World Class Scholars Program, is necessary for universities that hope to compete in an increasingly competitive academic market where the very best researchers can often name their price, Machen said.
Bush announced the proposals at USF Connect, a University of South Florida program that helps small businesses grow by providing high-tech resources and services.
"Our short-term investment strategy allows us to compete with other states and nations to bring high-wage professional jobs to Florida today," he said.
Bush said the idea is to take the "one-time money" and invest it in long-term economic activity instead of pouring it into the state's infrastructure along with recurring funds.
"My budget that I will submit on Feb. 1 will have an additional commitment to hard infrastructure, but this is intellectual infrastructure," Bush said. "This is to build the foundation for the state's continuing emergence in the high-tech sector of economic activity."
House Democrats, however, questioned Bush's proposal to have so much public money available to state leaders on a discretionary basis and criticized his putting the money into business incentives instead of the state's beleaguered education system.
"Unfortunately, while the Republican agenda includes using tax dollars to temporarily lure businesses, the quality of our public schools and state universities has suffered," said state Rep. Anne Gannon, D-Delray Beach.
"Perhaps if we were to invest as much into public education, we wouldn't need to be bribing corporations to come to our state in the first place," she said.
Bush's recommendations include:
  • $200 million to foster cooperation between industry and academia, including the $100 million to attract world-class researchers.
  • $55 million to bolster the space industry, including $35 million to recruit the replacement for the Space Shuttle, the Crew Exploration Vehicle.
  • $75 million in tax credits to attract early stage venture capital for startup companies in Florida.
  • $50 million for the Quick Action Closing Fund, which pays industries cash to move to Florida.
  • $250 million to create the Florida Innovation Incentive Fund to pay for "once-in-a-lifetime opportunities" to attract major employers or research funds. Such an incentive was used to encourage Scripps Research Institute to expand to Palm Beach County.
    Bush said the state has already benefited greatly from its business-friendly programs, noting that the $18 million from the Quick Action Closing Fund already has helped lure 16 companies to Florida.
    Among those was the Depository Trust & Clearing Corp., a securities clearing house that built an operations center in Tampa.
    Kevin Carey, the chief administrative officer, said the company already employs 410 high-wage earners in its operations center here and will top out at around 500.
    "This program keeps Florida communities on an equal playing field," Carey said.
    Florida House Majority Leader Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, said the proposals make sense.
    "I'm a believer," said Gardiner, who is executive director of the Apopka Chamber of Commerce. "I understand that it's our role to compete not only on a national level but on a global level. . . . We're going to work hard to implement this proposal."
    Sun staff writer Jack Stripling contributed to this article.
  • Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

    Comments are currently unavailable on this article

    ▲ Return to Top