JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- "It's a trade-off. We have to make sure we compete with these other states," said Gov. Rick Scott.
Scott ran on the platform of making Florida the best place to work and play, but it turns out, that doesn't come cheap.
"If we're going to provide money for companies to move to Florida, to expand to Florida, think about where that money is coming from," he said.
The state agency that provides incentives to bring companies to Florida is funded with taxpayer money.
Enterprise Florida has been around since 1996, and has a $16 million budget.
But a new report out Wednesday criticized the agency for being too secretive and often giving money to its own members.
"When you're looking to get a transaction done, you have to work confidentially. You're competing often," said Scott.
Integrity Florida, a new government watchdog group, found Enterprise Florida voted to give tax breaks and incentives to its own board members intended to bring jobs to the state.
Publix and Lockheed Martin both got millions of dollars in tax breaks while sitting on the board.
Embraer Aircrafts got a similar deal.
"Enterprise Florida granted two incentives awards to it's board member, Embraer Aircraft," said Dan Krassner of Integrity Florida.
Krassner said in 2010 the company gave $400,000 to Enterprise Florida.
Later that year, Embraer got $400,000 tax breaks.
In 2011, the company pledged to bring an aircraft manufacturing plant and 50 high-paying jobs to Jacksonville.
Mayor Alvin Brown and Governor Rick Scott even went to Brazil to meet with them.
But after a court battle with a competitor, the plant is on hold, and so are the jobs in Jax.
"We don't want to hurt the deals. We don't want to hurt the jobs, but it's important that if our government is under contract, we need to know how much of our money is being spent," said Krassner.
Krassner said the agency offers large companies seats on their board of directors for $50,000, but then doesn't hold those companies accountable for creating the jobs and business they pledge to the state.
Governor Scott admits the system isn't perfect, but he said it's necessary for Florida to win.
"You have to compete. You have to do it confidentially, but, as soon as you can, you have to tell the people who are paying us, the citizens of the state," said Scott.
Enterprise Florida defended itself against the report today, saying the agency has brought a signficant amount of business to the state in the past three years, and that the 63 member Board of Directors does not vote on where the money goes.
First Coast News