State Politics

Local leaders hail ‘pro-business’ changes

BRADENTON -- Expect plenty of pro-business resolutions on the table this legislative session.

Manatee County business advocates and lawmakers have a legislative agenda packed with priorities intended to stimulate the economy and create jobs.

And with the change in command in Tallahassee -- a pro-business governor and house speaker -- optimism is abound that such priorities will be accomplished.

“I see our focus there being heard loud and clear,” said Neil Spirtas, vice president of public policy and small business of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce. The Manatee Chamber set its 2011 legislative priorities in October. The chamber’s legislative committee held a series of about seven meetings to develop the list of 38 legislative policy statements for 2011.

The list of economic development priorities stress a need for performance-based funding for technical schools, measures that will address capital needs for small businesses and manufacturers and developing a competitive arena for high technology and bioscience industries.

“We realized that economic development is one of our top issues in terms of job creation,” Spirtas said. “These efforts will help stabilize our communities and actually provide reason to increase employment.”

Local lawmakers say they’ll be emphasizing a need for less government regulation and more tax-based incentives in an attempt to create a business-friendly environment in Florida.

“Tax incentives that might allow postponement or abatement of a tax that allow businesses to expand will be on the radar,” said Rep. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton. “Such incentives need to be set with criteria so we’re not just giving away the store but we’ve all heard of businesses that we lost to states nearby. We want to make sure we look from Tallahassee on down throughout Florida to make sure there’s no stumbling block for people that want to be here working.”

Manatee County boat builder Donzi Marine was one of the most recent local businesses to exit the state. The manufacturer left for North Carolina to set up its plant in an facility that already exists for several other boat brands Donzi’s parent company makes.

Adam Babington, vice president of governmental affairs for the Florida Chamber of Commerce, said Gov. Rick Scott removed some barriers for businesses Monday when after being sworn into office he signed an executive order that postpones new business regulations and will create a new government office to review future policies.

“As Gov. Scott pointed out in his inauguration speech the axis of unemployment comes down to regulation, taxes and litigation,” Babington said.

Sen. Mike Bennett, R-Bradenton, too, supports less government regulation on business but says the state needs to be cautious in its movement to recruit new businesses with incentives that compete with existing firms.

“We’ve got to be careful recruiting new business to Florida,” Bennett said. “Should we be spending money to recruit new business to Florida that’s going to hurt your business? By and large, you’ve got to welcome new business and they like to get money (from incentives) but time and permitting are just as important.”

Bennett met with the Manatee Chamber’s legislative committee as it worked on its 2011 session priorities and said the other major issue identified at those meetings was a need for Medicaid reimbursement reform in District 13, which includes Manatee County.

The chamber wants to see Medicaid reimbursement rates increased for physicians and health care providers to be comparative to other areas in Florida.

“We would like to have that rebalanced,” Bennett said. “We don’t believe we’re getting a fair shake on medical reimbursements.”