Scott renews push for incentives amid House opposition
ORLANDO, Fla. – Gov. Rick Scott plans to ask lawmakers in 2017 to provide $85 million for economic incentives, after the Legislature rejected his request this year for $250 million for the state's business-recruitment agency.
But he may have to twist arms to win support from the House, where incoming Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, remains openly critical of using public dollars to try to attract businesses.
"The House's position on this issue has been clear," Corcoran said in a prepared statement Thursday. "The government engaging in social engineering to pick winners and losers that benefit the 1 percent is a bad deal for Florida taxpayers. There will not be any corporate welfare in the House budget."
Scott announced his proposal Thursday at a board meeting of the public-private agency Enterprise Florida. Scott is chairman of the board.
After appearing at the Florida Chamber Foundation's "Future of Florida Forum" --- being held in Orlando alongside the Enterprise Florida board meeting --- Scott said the incentive money is needed so Florida can compete for jobs against other states.
"We have to get a good return for taxpayers, but we have to be part of the game," Scott said. "If we're not, we're not going to get the corporate office moves, the regional offices, things like that."
Asked how he will get reluctant lawmakers to approve the funding request, Scott replied, "I just can't imagine anybody's going to vote against it."
When asked if he had discussed the proposal with Corcoran, Scott added that he talks to state senators and representatives "all the time."
The Senate is expected to again be more open to considering the proposal.
Incoming Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, said he looks forward to learning more about the request and Scott's other priorities.
"The Senate takes every priority of the governor very seriously," Negron said in a prepared statement. "In the coming months, our Senate committees will have the chance to review his proposed budget in its entirety."
During this year's session, the Senate initially supported Scott's $250 million request. But with the House opposed, the funding dissolved as the chambers hammered out a budget.
The $250 million request was one of Scott's priorities for 2016. The rejection of the money resulted in Bill Johnson, who had lobbied lawmakers for the money, stepping down as president of Enterprise Florida and the agency being downsized.
Scott also requested $85 million for incentives in 2015. The final budget for that year included $53 million for Enterprise Florida, of which $43 million was for incentives and $10 million was for marketing.
Scott also plans to request that lawmakers narrow the focus of Enterprise Florida. The focus would be on efforts to attract corporate headquarters, along with businesses in the aviation, aerospace, defense, financial services, information technology and advanced manufacturing industries.
"We need to refocus EFI on one job, the one job is getting more people jobs," Scott said during the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors meeting.
News Service of Florida