Lawmakers to hold job creation summit

Lawmakers to hold job creation summit



TALLAHASSEE — With the national recession going into a third year, House and Senate leaders Tuesday said they will hold a summit next month aimed at sparking job creation in a state now plagued by its worst unemployment in 34 years.

Rep. Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, and Sen. Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, both newly named to lead the House and Senate following the 2010 elections, said the event will bring together a wide range of business, government, education and labor leaders to consider economic repairs in advance of the spring legislative session.

Reducing government red-tape and providing new tax incentives for companies looking to expand or relocate to Florida were presented as pivot points for the summit by the incoming leaders.

“We have to be smart and we have to be aggressive,” Cannon said. “We can’t afford the luxury of timid solutions.”

Gov. Charlie Crist has already floated the idea of reducing Florida’s corporate income tax, a levy which draws $1.7 billion into this year’s budget but which business organizations have long targeted for cutting.

Haridopolos and Cannon said reducing the 5.5 percent tax on corporate revenues could be among the proposals that emerge at the Orlando summit, but they are heading into the session with an open mind.

Both Republican lawmakers, however, made it clear that they see government as more typically a hindrance to job creation, even though Florida’s recession-ravaged, $66 billion budget was balanced largely through the injection of $3 billion in federal stimulus.

“It’s not the government that creates jobs, it’s the private sector that creates jobs,” Haridopolos said.

Few specific proposals were offered by the two leaders. Cannon said he’s heard from a dry-cleaner in his district troubled by environmental requirements that made it difficult to expand his business, but the lawmaker conceded he was unsure whether local, state or federal regulations were the source.

“There’s a lot of ideas that are floating around about tax incentives, regulatory burdens, and permitting, but we want to have that dialogue before we unleash our ideas,” Haridopolos said.

The summit, billed as the Florida Jobs Summit, will be held in Orlando Jan. 14-15 at the Rosen Shingle Creek Hotel. While the Republican leaders announced the session Tuesday, Haridopolos promised that there will be representatives from “the economic left and right,” pointing out that Andy Ford, president of the Florida Education Association and Mike Williams, head of the state’s AFL-CIO have pledged to attend.

While Crist has touted the prospect of cutting the corporate income tax, Democrats have unsuccessfully clamored for several years to approve “combined reporting” of corporate tax, a measure that would force corporate parents and their subsidiaries to report as one corporation for state income tax purpose.

Business organizations have fought the proposal. But advocates have said the approach could prevent multi-state corporations from taking steps to avoid tax payments.

“I don’t think it’s any secret that Sen. Haridopolos and I believe that conservative economic theory is a good theory,” Cannon said. “No government in the world has ever created wealth….but they can create an environment where wealth can grow or contract.”

Groups that have said they would take part in the summit include Associated Industries of Florida, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Retail Federation, and the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

“We’re still in a psychological recession,” said Rick McAllister, president of the Florida Retail Federation. “People are not yet willing to take the step to bring people back to work or hire.

“But this sort of summit will give people positive vibrations about what the state is going to do.”