Gov. Scott, legislative leaders work out budget deal

Special session to be held June 7 to June 9

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Seeking to end weeks of feuding and finger-pointing, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and legislative leaders agreed Friday to hold a three-day special session where legislators will boost money for schools and spend more on economic development efforts pushed by the governor.

Scott announced the initial details with House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron at a hastily-arranged press conference at the Miami International Airport.

"I think it's a win for Florida families, which is the most important thing for me," Scott said.

The special session, which could cost as much as $72,000 a day, will begin Tuesday.

The Republican governor, upset that legislators ignored many of his top priorities during the regular session that ended in May, warned he could veto a new state budget and force lawmakers back to the Capitol.

He had complained that GOP legislators were killing jobs and could wreck the state's economy with their push for cuts to the state's tourism marketing agency and the organization responsible for luring companies to the state.

Under a deal forged in the last few days, Scott will sign a roughly $82 billion budget. But legislators have agreed to give Visit Florida the same level of money it received this year. Initially, legislators had voted to slash money for the tourism marketing agency by two-thirds.

The state will also set aside $85 million to help lure companies, but the money cannot be used as incentive for a specific company. Instead, it will be spent on workforce training, as well as public works projects such as roads.

READ: Proclamation to declare special session

During the session, lawmakers will also pour in enough money to increase the amount spent on each public school student by $100 more.

The money to pay for the new spending will come from the $410 million that Scott is expected to veto from the budget. Scott is expected to release a detailed list later on Friday.

Corcoran, who had railed against economic development spending as "corporate welfare," insisted there has been a "meeting of minds" because the state will no longer offer money directly to one business.

"Just because there are two people who are warriors who fight for what they believe in, doesn't mean they can't compromise," Corcoran said. "We reached a nice common ground."

The governor, however, refused to say whether or not the deal reached with legislators is contingent on him approving a sweeping education bill that was put together secretly in the waning days of the regular session.

"The only person who would know is me," Scott told reporters.

The legislation is a top priority for Corcoran and would steer more state and local money to privately run charter schools by creating a $140 million "Schools of Hope" program. The legislation (HB 7069) also mandates recess in elementary schools, expands virtual education courses to private and home-schooled students, tweaks Florida's testing system and includes bonuses for teachers.

School superintendents, parent-teacher groups, and the state's teacher union have been calling on Scott to veto the bill.

Corcoran, who has been considering a run for governor next year, said he was "optimistic" that the governor would sign it.

Democrats who opposed the education bill quickly lambasted Scott and Republicans. Sen. Jeff Clemens, a Lake Worth Democrat, contended that Corcoran had reversed his position on economic development in order to get the education bill signed.

"He sold out all his positions to get this bill that screws over public schools," Clemens said.

Rep. Janet Cruz, the House Democratic leader, said "the creation of a $140 million slush fund for private charter school operators in exchange for an $85 million slush fund for corporate welfare is the epitome of everything that people despise about politics."

The three-day session does not right now include consideration of new rules for medical marijuana. Voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana last November, but a legislative fight over who should be allowed to sell it derailed an effort to pass a bill during this year's regular session.

Corcoran, in a memo to House members, said the item could still be added to next week's session agenda if a deal is worked out.

Scott said the special session will discuss the following measures:

Funding for Florida’s K-12 students through the FEFP: Scott is calling on the Legislature to provide an additional $215 million to K-12 education than previously authorized. This would increase the per-student funding by $100.

“Florida’s students deserve the very best, and we must always do everything possible to provide them with the resources they need to get a great education,” Scott said. “Our students are the future of our great state, and I know Speaker Corcoran is committed to our students, parents and teachers and ensuring Florida offers a world-class education to students at all levels.”
Florida Job Growth Grant Fund: Scott is proposing to establish the new Florida Job Growth Grant Fund to promote public infrastructure and individual job training, which will encourage more businesses to choose Florida as a destination to grow jobs. Scott is calling on the Florida Legislature to fund it at $85 million.
Increase Visit Florida Funding: Scott has been focused on funding Visit Florida at $76 million in order to bring more tourists and support for Florida small businesses. The governor is calling on the Legislature to pass legislation that funds Visit Florida at a total of $76 million and includes comprehensive transparency and accountability measures at the organization.

“In addition to our common focus on ensuring a world-class education for Florida’s students, Speaker Corcoran understands the importance of ensuring future economic growth for Florida’s economy. Today, I am announcing that I intend to veto HB 5501 relating to Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida,” Scott said. “While I believe very strongly in these programs and their ability to help bring more jobs to Florida, there needs to be a new bill relating to these organizations and how they operate.”

Corcoran acknowledged Scott's commitment to creating jobs for Floridians.

"I am proud to stand with Gov. Scott as we fight for continued strong job creation, giving every child a competitive and world class education, ensuring Florida competes as a tourist destination and faithfully stewarding taxpayer dollars -- goals that unify us,” Corcoran said. "The people of Florida should be proud today that you can have leaders with competing opinions and still compromise to meet common goals -- government in Florida is working, and the biggest winners are all Floridians."

Copyright 2017 by WJXT News4Jax. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.