By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
One of the many recipients of the state’s economic incentives — which are tax breaks or subsidies given to private businesses in an effort to get or keep jobs in Florida — was a gun manufacturer whose products have been connected to a deadly mass shooting at a school in Connecticut, Bloomberg reports.
Florida was one of nine states that gave either tax breaks or checks to Olin Corp., based in Missouri, or Freedom Group Inc., based in North Carolina, which according to Bloomberg is the “company that produces the rifle used in the Dec. 14 killing of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown.”
Other states including Kentucky, Massachusetts and New York also gave “incentives” to these gun manufacturers in an effort to keep them from moving to another state and taking the thousands of jobs they created with them.
In the past several years, starting before Gov. Rick Scott’s administration, the state has spent millions on handouts to businesses in the hopes this would generate jobs in the state as part of its economic incentives program.
However, Scott, in particular, has made this incentives program, along with tax breaks, the bedrock of his job creation policies. This means he has doled out more checks to businesses than any other governor before him.
Most of the controversy with the program comes from the fact that there is no transparency in the program, either. There is no public record of whether the tax breaks or subsidies given to companies like these gun manufacturers is actually saving or creating jobs in Florida.
Regardless, Scott has heralded the program as a means to a better job market in Florida.
According to Bloomberg, the same applies to the money given to gun manufacturers in the state:
In Florida, Republican Governor Rick Scott hailed an incentive for the West Hartford, Connecticut-based Colt Manufacturing Co. in 2011 saying it showed the state was “a defender of our right to bear arms.” The deal, for 63 jobs, was worth about $1.66 million in state and local incentives, according to Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development arm. The agreement penalizes the company $50,000 if it doesn’t produce all the jobs.
Frank Attkisson, a commissioner in Osceola County, which provided incentives, said it was a “sweetheart deal” for Colt and that the county would put tougher controls on future subsidies.
Florida state Senator Nancy Detert, the Republican chairwoman of the Commerce Committee, said she’s crafting legislation to make it more difficult to provide incentives for companies that don’t specialize in science and technology. She said she doesn’t want Florida to be known for gun manufacturing.
“We need to be a lot more careful and decide what kind of state we envision,” Detert said.
Lawmakers promised last year that the incentives program would eventually become public, but the only glimpse of the program we have are through public records requests like this one or through accidents.
The program has also had massive pitfalls. Last year, a movie company based in Florida that received $20 million over several years and by multiple governors went bankrupt. Everyone at the Florida company lost their job in the course of one day.