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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Bill would kill Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida





As Florida Gov. Rick Scott sharpens his criticism of the Legislature over tourism marketing spending and job incentive programs, the Florida House has retaliated by proposing a bill that would completely eliminate whole agencies charged with carrying out Scott's biggest priorities.

Less than 36 hours after Scott chastised legislators for threatening to pull back funding for Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, the House leadership has rolled out a bill set for its first hearing on Wednesday that would kill both agencies.

The bill comes to light as Scott was in Orlando on Thursday making some of his strongest comments yet about how the Legislature's actions have cost the state jobs with some of the biggest corporations in America. Specifically, Scott blamed the Legislature's retreat from job incentives as one of the reasons why General Electric refused to move its company headquarters from Connecticut to Florida two years ago.

Scott said negotiations with GE were going on, but then the Legislature cut back job incentive money that could have helped GE.

"The next week it was off," Scott said at a Enterprise Florida board meeting in Orlando today. "It was clear that the Legislature was saying to GE that we don't want to do a deal with you."

Scott on Tuesday asked the Legislature for $85 million in extra funding for Enterprise Florida - the state's quasi Deaprtment of Commerce - to offer incentives for companies to move to Florida. The Legislature refused to give the governor anything last year when he asked for $250 million.

Also on Tuesday, Scott asked for $76 million to continue to support Visit Florida, which markets Florida nationally and internationally to tourists. But the House has threatened to cut that budget because of questionable spending on marketing deals that included a British soccer teams, pop music star Pitbull and a racing car team.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran said on Tuesday that there was no chance Scott would get what he was asking for for Visit Florida from the House.

But in Orlando on Thursday, surrounded by business leaders from around the state, Scott blasted the idea of rolling back tourism marketing.

"You don't stop marketing," Scott said. "Ever. If you're getting a return spend more."

 Scott said the Legislature's threat to cut tourism spending threatens the entire state economy because of how important record tourism has been to the state's financial picture.

"If we don't fund these things, it can''s not logicial," Scott said.

The House has argued that the incentive programs have become a form of "corporate welfare." Corcoran has compared spending at Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida to that of turning on the lights in a kitchen and finding lots of cockroaches.

[Last modified: Thursday, February 2, 2017 11:34am]


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