Small Businesses Consider Gambling the Legislature's Dessert; Supportive of Scott
Around the State
The business owners, showing overwhelming support for Gov. Rick Scott’s pro-jobs agenda over the past year, lean toward favoring the gambling bill, according to a National Federation of Independent Business/Florida poll. However, the same owners say there are bigger issues to dig into first in the upcoming legislative session.
First, legislators -- when they begin the 60-day regular session next week -- need to focus on workers’ compensation, unemployment compensation, tort reform and tangible personal property tax relief, said Bill Herrle, NFIB/Florida executive director.
“Our message to the Legislature is this: Take these hard votes, clean your plate,” Herrle said during a media conference Friday at the Florida Press Center in Tallahassee.
See video here.
“Eat your vegetables, eat your lima beans, eat your green beans, eat your spinach,” he continued. “Do workers’ comp, unemployment comp, these other issues, and then maybe you could have your dessert. The dessert being the gaming issue.
“Small-business owners would be receptive to this if these other important economic issues are addressed.
“But I would also say this on the flip side, that should the gaming issue pass, under the guise of creating tens of thousands of jobs, it will be viewed as a frivolity by the small-business community if these other hard issues are not addressed.”
The issues the NFIB/Florida considers bigger priorities -- according to a release from the NFIB/Florida -- are:
- Relieve workers’ comp rates small businesses are facing by supporting efforts to cap the amount doctors can charge for directly dispensing prescription drugs.
- Ease the load of continually rising unemployment tax rates by supporting efforts to reconfigure the state system and reduce unemployment compensation fraud.
- Reform harmful and ambiguous “bad faith” laws to stop trial lawyers from filing excessive lawsuits and claims that inflict rising insurance premiums on business owners.
- Lower taxes for small-business owners by raising the tangible personal property tax exemption, which would eliminate the tax completely for the majority of small businesses.
The small-business group isn’t taking a stance on the hot topic as 49 percent of the business owners polled last month supported the proposal by Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, and Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, to create a statewide gaming commission and allow a number of mega-casinos to be built.
Another 40 percent opposed the recently amended bills that would allow voters to approve casinos in a number of counties with existing pari-mutuel facilities.
Herrle said they will remain an “impartial voice” on gaming; for the NFIB to make an endorsement there would have been a need to be at least 60 percent support or opposition.
See video here.
Nearly 49 percent also ranked gaming lowest in priority in the survey, behind reducing health care costs and overturning the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
In the same survey, conducted among 400 NFIB/Florida members Dec. 27-28, 69 percent of the business owners approved -- 29 percent strongly -- of the job Scott is doing as governor. Twenty-one percent disapproved.
“We were surprised, because we have never seen numbers this high,” Herrle said.
“We have rarely seen that in executive leaders and it’s truly reflective of the governor’s support for much of this agenda.”
The survey has a 3.5 percent to 4 percent margin of error.
Scott said Friday, in an interview on News Radio 1620 AM Pensacola, that he wants legislators to streamline regulation and reduce taxes for small business.
“I’d like to do as well as we did last year on jobs,” he said.
“We’ve got to keep it up every month,” he added. “I get a report card the third Friday of every month. We have to make sure the Legislature this session, they say, ‘How do we get ourselves that Florida companies do better than companies in any other state of this country and hopefully any other place in the world?’ because they don’t pay taxes they don’t need to, they don’t have fees they don’t need. The permitting process is logical. They don’t have regulations that are ridiculous that they have to deal with.
“If we do those things, we’re going to have lots of jobs.”
Meanwhile, the business owners gave legislators a 49 percent approval rating, with 24 percent disapproving.
“I think after many years of limiting tax increases, no tax increases, balanced budgets, and good pro-business policies, those notions are starting to take hold with the small-business community,” Herrle said.
Reach Jim Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (772) 215-9889.