As veto threats loom, Scott takes aim at four budget recipients
As threats of line-item vetoes by Gov. Rick Scott loom large over the Legislature's recently-approved budget, he's taking the unusual step of forcing some organizations to agree in writing to forfeit taxpayer money if they don't generate the tax revenue they're promising.
Working with chief of staff Adam Hollingsworth and budget director Jerry McDaniel, Scott on Wednesday sent letters to four groups seeking multi-million dollar appropriations in the budget: a St. Petersburg incubator, a rowing center in Sarasota, the IMG Sports Academy in Bradenton and the Florida Horse Park in Ocala.
"This letter confirms our representation that the Rowing Center - Sarasota County project will bring a positive return on Florida's investment," Scott wrote to Paul Blackketter, president of the rowing center organization, Suncoast Aquatic Nature Center Associates, Inc.
Scott said the group has committed to 1.4 million visitor nights and $12.5 million in new state sales tax revenue annually in the calendar years 2017 and 2018. If the group doesn't hit those targets, Scott stipulates in the letter, "the undersigned agrees to return these funds to the state of Florida is the Governor of Florida, in his or her sole disrection, is not satisfied that the incubator has been responsible for generating in excess of $25 million in state sales taxes" in that two-year period.
The Tampa Bay Innovation Center in St. Petersburg, a technology incubator, is in line to receive $400,000 in the budget. The rowing center is in line to get a $5 million appropriation in the budget, in addition to $5 million the group received in the current year. IMG would receive $2.3 million and the Florida Horse Park $2 million. Scott has until May 24 to act on the new $74.5 billion budget, and because he is headed to Santiago, Chile on a trade mission next week, it appears the only days he would be in Florida to take action are next Monday, May 20, or next Friday, May 24.
Below is a copy of the letter Scott sent to the St. Petersburg group.
The Honorable Rick Scott
Executive Office of the Governor
PL 05 The Capitol
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001
Re: St. Petersburg Technology Incubator (the “Incubator”)
Dear Governor Scott:
The Florida State Legislature has proposed to fund the Tampa Bay Innovation Center – St. Petersburg Technology Incubator at a level of $400,000 in this year’s budget. This letter confirms our representation that Tampa Bay Innovation Center – St. Petersburg Technology Incubator will bring a positive return on Florida’s investment. Specifically, according to our letter to you dated
May 13, 2013, the St. Petersburg Technology Incubator will have a 20 to 1 return on investment – equal to $8 million - in the form of state sales taxes. In order for the Governor to approve the $400,000 to the Tampa Bay Innovation Center – St. Petersburg Technology Incubator in this year’s budget, the undersigned agrees to return these funds to the State of Florida if the Governor
of Florida, in his or her sole discretion, is not satisfied that the incubator has been responsible for generating in excess of $1,000,000 in state sales taxes between July 1, 2013 and June 30, 2018.
Tampa Bay Innovation Center – St. Petersburg
Tonya Elmore, President
Tampa Bay Innovation Center