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East County Wednesday, Mar. 2, 2011 6 years ago

OUR VIEW: County right, policy still wrong


When Ken Sanborn asked Sarasota County for another $500,000 for his startup movie studio in Lakewood Ranch, it just highlighted an ongoing policy problem.

Sarasota County Commissioner Nora Patterson rightly called the request “startling,” coming on the unproven heels of $650,000 the county already has given Sanborn Studios.

County staff agreed. Administrator Jim Ley said he was not going to place it on the agenda unless a commissioner requested it and, if so, it was going to be with a recommendation against it.

It’s heartening to see the county staff and commissioners see the foolishness of more funding for this enterprise, and we hope they continue to see it in a year or whenever it may be that more requests will come.

While we would love to see Sanborn Studios succeed and thrive — and based on Sanborn’s track record building Gyrocam, the company just might — the idea of using taxpayer money to fund such a high-risk venture as a movie studio is not prudent.

With growing opposition, Sanborn pulled his request. Issue over? Not really.

The real problem is with these taxpayer giveaways. By opening the Pandora’s Box of endless government largesse, our leaders entered into a frenzy where every local, out-of-state or startup business has the full expectation of getting tax money for what they often plan to do anyway.

You just don’t read of expansions or new companies without reading about how much they were given in grants or other financial incentives. For instance, the same day Sanborn asked for more money, Tervis Tumbler got a $30,000 annual tax break from Venice for a plant expansion that it was clearly going to do anyway.

It’s not really the fault of business. Why would any business owner or CEO not seek cheap capital wherever it is available? It would practically be a breach of fiduciary responsibility not to. Local governments have made themselves just another capital source for businesses now.

No, this is completely on local leaders acting like sheep instead of acting on principle. Seeing that the box is open, the best that governments are left with is: Everyone else is doing it!

Patterson used another apt term for the Sanborn project when she said funding for the film industry was being done “kind of speculatively.” But there is a sense in which all of these giveaways are speculative.
Very near to the last thing any county commission needs to be doing with taxpayer money is speculative investing — something we fervently hope commissioners will remember regarding Jackson Labs.

+ Hurricane Charlie
Crist, that is. Even the Wall Street Journal is lamenting the state of Florida’s insurance industry in the aftermath of the former governor’s irresponsible politicizing of the state’s property insurance market.

We all know the score. The state-run Citizen’s Property Insurance Corp., which was supposed to be the insurer of last resort, now controls 25% of the market and has become the insurer of first resort thanks to subsidized rates. Plus, Citizens does not have enough money to handle a major storm and would end up having to tax everyone to make up the difference.

The Journal’s contention is that Crist was always relying on Washington to bail out Florida if the big one hit, because his system was never going to be solvent. That is wrong on principle. It should not be the responsibility of Iowa farmers and Tennessee cashiers to subsidize Florida waterfront owners and beyond.

The solution is simple, if politically hard. The state needs to back way out and let market forces dictate prices and coverage, allowing competition from private insurers who will then take on the risk — not taxpayers.

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