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A Discussion With Florida Governor Charlie Crist

Florida Governor Charlie Crist follows in the Republican footsteps of Jeb Bush, whose economic development strategies put Florida on the biotech map. Crist served as Bush's Deputy Secretary of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation after completing his Senate service, and in 2000 won a special election and became Florida's last elected Commissioner of Education. He later served as Attorney General.

Apr/May 07
Crist's experience in law and government should serve him well as he steps into the CEO role in Florida. He intends to be known as the "people's Governor," putting citizens in charge of the state's future. He intends to keep the state safe. He also intends to lower taxes and insurance and to better the education system. And he has a comprehensive strategic plan to do it. Area Development listened in as Crist discussed his plans for Florida.

On taxes.
Florida's economy is among the best in the nation. To keep Florida's economy moving in the right direction, the Crist administration will return as much money as possible to the Floridians who earned it; will not support any new taxes or tax increases; and will live within its means.

By keeping taxes low, we can strengthen Florida's business-friendly environment. High property taxes harm Florida's business owners, threaten jobs, and weaken Florida's economy. I would like to provide business owners and renters the same protection that owners of homesteaded properties have enjoyed - a cap on the tax growth rate of 3 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. I also would like to exempt small businesses from the tangible personal property tax. For businesses with tangible personal property worth less than $25,000, items such as computers, shelving, machinery, and equipment would no longer be taxed.

On energy. Energy diversification is vital to Florida's growing population, economic development, and security. Specifically, increased ethanol production and distribution will be a huge benefit for Florida because it will weaken efforts to drill off Florida's coasts, reduce dependence on foreign oil, lower energy prices, create a new economic engine, revitalize Florida's agricultural industry, and improve Florida's environment.

We recently announced $15 million in grants to develop, implement, and promote the use of renewable energy technologies, including ethanol and bio-energy.  Other incentives include no-interest or low-interest loans, tax credits, and expedited state and local permitting to develop and expand ethanol production facilities, refineries, and distribution centers.

On biotechnology. I will utilize biomedical research grants to bring large-scale research projects and private companies, including but not limited to biotech/life science companies and institutes, and world-class scholars to Florida to create educational opportunities and high-wage jobs for Floridians.

On economic development incentives. Businesses thrive in an environment with favorable tax and regulatory climates. Offering bright, talented people the opportunity to innovate is key. Business growth should not be entirely government-driven, but government should be responsive to the needs of the private sector. My property tax proposals - along with prudent government spending - would directly benefit all businesses, regardless of size or location.

I have recommended several economic development incentives. They include $100 million to continue attracting new industry, $45 million for a quick-action closing fund that will help Florida respond quickly to extraordinary economic opportunities, and a three-year investment of $75 million each year to grow Florida's film industry.

Although some business incentives are designed to attract large industries to Florida, there are many others that may go unnoticed. My budget proposal for alternative fuel diversification is designed to level the playing field so that businesses of all sizes can compete. My proposed funding for Space Florida and television and film incentives is specifically geared to small and medium-sized businesses.

On education.
A person's education is the foundation for success. I am committed to providing each student in Florida with a world-class education. My recommended budget allocates funding for increased teacher bonuses, reading coaches, and virtual tutors, among others things. The goal of our proposed budget is to improve long-term student achievement.

Reading coaches allow schools to provide in-depth training to teachers and staff to assist students during specialized reading sessions. Funding for virtual tutors will empower both teachers and parents to better help children learn outside of school. Increased teacher performance bonuses provide incentive for the best teachers to remain in the classroom.

On tourism and trade. Because of Florida's natural environment, beautiful sunshine, and entrepreneurial spirit, the tourism industry in this state is thriving. I will work closely with the Office of Tourism, Trade and Economic Development to support a vital tourism industry, but will not aggressively interfere with a private market that is thriving on its own.

On the space program. Space Florida is an important element of sustaining Florida's thriving economy. I have designated $7 million for Space Florida's efforts in ensuring Florida's lead position in the nation's space program. Our goal is a world-class aerospace industry based in Florida and preserving the important role of Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center. I look forward to reviewing Space Florida's report that will be helpful for making meaningful decisions regarding the future development of the industry.