Gov. Scott's justification for rejecting Amazon, jobs, revenueis unreasonable

May 24, 2013 

It's impossible to fathom the tortured logic that Gov. Rick Scott expressed in rejecting a sure-fire jobs initiative from none other than Internet retail giant Amazon. The Seattle-based enterprise offered to build one or two warehouses in Florida with anticipated employment up to a whopping 2,500.

But our self-professed jobs governor stood firm on a wrong-headed ideological principle against all "new" taxes. That is a specious argument in this case. The tax already exists.

Should Amazon locate a physical presence in Florida, the company would be required to collect sales taxes on Internet purchases by state residents -- something Florida currently does not require of out-of-state online retailers who lack brick-and-mortar stores here.

But Florida does have a law requiring consumers to pay sales taxes on purchases from Internet purchases as well as those from mail-order catalogs. Few people remit those taxes, but this is not a new tax as portrayed by the governor. (The form and instructions on sales tax remittance can be found online at http://dor.myflorida.com/dor/taxes/consumer.html.)

Discounting the idea that Floridians would be forced to pay an already well established sales tax should Amazon build a warehouse or two here, why would the governor turn his back on the business community?

The state's two largest and most influential business advocacy organizations, Associated Industries of Florida and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, both put enforcement of the sales tax for online purchases on their legislative priority list this session.

So did Manatee County government and the Manatee Chamber of Commerce -- for the simple reason enforcement levels the competitive playing field between Florida's brick-and-mortar businesses and Internet retailers, which currently hold a big advantage, especially on large purchases.

The primary argument in favor should be convincing, but not to a tax-averse, stubborn ideologue facing an uphill re-election campaign due to poor polling numbers. The governor remains tone deaf to Florida's business community and local governments.

But Scott sure enjoys shoveling money to recruit businesses to Florida, shipping out emails touting each and every new job.

This month, the governor announced a deal to bring Hertz's headquarters to a site near the governor's Naples home -- for $19 million in state and local incentives as payback for projected 700 jobs.

In 2011 and 2012, Scott's administration doled out more than $130 million in economic incentives, including tax breaks, grants, low-interest loans and reimbursements for employee training costs. Incentives are a valuable tool in recruiting economic development, though the largesse has its critics.

Which makes the entire Amazon episode so baffling. Florida thumbed its nose at possibly several thousands good jobs from a highly reputable company and lost millions in sales tax revenue that is actually owed to the state over the false premise that this is a "new" tax.

Politics sure breed strained rationalizations.

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