After collectively holding their breath awaiting news of the final statewide budget, local legislators and business leaders in Lake County can let out a sigh of relief, as the bulk of their economic development initiatives remains intact.
Many wondered how the disagreement between the House and the Senate over health care funding that resulted in a special legislative session would affect Gov. Rick Scott’s approval ratings. He answered their concern June 22 by signing the Keep Florida Working 2015 appropriations bill, whereby he slashed a whopping $461.4 million from the budget using line-item vetoes.
Although statewide many were left angry that Scott slashed millions from various projects affecting mainly the struggling and disenfranchised, Lake County economic development projects survived the cut.
What the County Asked For
The Keep Florida Working 2015 appropriations bill has been touted as a job creation bill and as business-friendly legislation. In the timeline leading up to Florida State appropriations bill for 2015-2016, the Lake County Board of Commissioners prepared a Legislative Positions 2015 document that listed and discussed projects in need of appropriation funds. Among Lake County’s projects detailed in the document, four would directly benefit economic development initiatives. They were:
• Lake-Sumter State College Science Lab facility at the South Lake Campus, Clermont: Request for $6 million
• C.R. 466-A Phase 3: The project would support employment centers in The Villages of Fruitland Park, the City of Fruitland Park, Lady Lake and Sumter County. Request for $5 million.
• Citrus Grove Road from U.S. 27 to the Florida Turnpike: There currently is no other alternative for the east-west traffic from U.S. 27 to the soon-to-be-constructed Turnpike Minneola Interchange. It is considered to be a vital Economic Development project to support South Lake County. Request for $1 million.
• Lake Technical Center for Advanced Manufacturing:
Request $2.8 million to fund the project on the Eustis campus location.
What the County Received
Of the four line items above, three were approved in the 2015-16 appropriations bill.
• The Lake-Sumter State College Science Lab facility in Clermont will receive $6 million in appropriations. The lab will provide support for medical training programs to expand Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) capabilities (Section 2, line item 20).
• The C.R. 466 Phase 3 right of way project will receive $2.5 million in appropriation funds (Section 5, line item 1927).
• The Citrus Grove Rd – U.S. 27 to Turnpike project will receive $1 million in appropriation funds (Section 5, line item 1927).
Other Economic Benefits
Lake County businesses indirectly will benefit from the Keep Florida Working 2015 bill. According to the Keep Florida Working 2015 Highlights, the bill also permanently eliminates sales tax on manufacturing machinery and equipment, cuts the business tax and funds higher education and workforce development.
Prior to the 2015-2016 appropriations bill, the manufacturing equipment and machinery sales tax had been suspended until April 30, 2017, according to Politifact. Now, as a result of the bill, that tax cut will be permanent. This has a potential significant impact on small manufacturing businesses. Manufacturing is Lake County’s second-largest industry sector employing 6 percent of the workforce, according to the Lake County’s Legislative Positions 2015 document.
Another way to decrease expenses for small businesses in Lake County is through the reduction of the business tax. The corporate income tax exemption will increase from $50,000 to $75,000, according to the county document. More small businesses will be able to save on their tax expenses and reinvest that money into income producing activities.
The bill provides significant investment in education and workforce development:
• Lake-Sumter State College has been approved for $2,894,601 from Florida College Systems Program Fund (Section 1:11)
• Beacon College gained tuition assistance of $250,000 from Special Categories Grants and Aides (Section 2:63A).
• Lake County workforce development gained $4,368,423 (Section 2:118), which may benefit local programs such as Careersource Central Florida.