Rick Scott tells legislators: 'Just pass' my budget
Gov. Rick Scott’s dined with Sens. J.D. Alexander, R-Lake Wales, Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, at the mansion last night. According to reporter Gary Fineout, who attended the dinner, Scott said tea partiers would be disappointed if lawmakers didn't pass his budget, and a high-level staffer told them "the nation will be watching." They also talked about baseball, psychotropic drugs and property insurance. Here are highlights of the meeting from Fineout:
* Gaetz and the governor talked with the others about the recent decision of Vision Airlines to come to Florida.
* Alexander, the Senate budget chief, said he had just been taking a first glance at Scott’s budget proposal. He was urged to “just pass it.” Later in the night that theme would be repeated when one of Scott’s top aides would suggest to all three senators that the nation will be watching to see whether the Legislature enacts Scott’s "fiscally conservative" budget.
* Scott also talked about the crowd at his budget rollout in Eustis. He briefly mentioned that those in the tea party – who he said included Democrats and independents – don’t want to be "disappointed" by those they have supported. Scott also noted that he has had bigger crowds at tea party events than at Republican Party of Florida organized events.
* Gaetz said lawmakers were likely to start looking this year at the operations of the Florida Housing Finance Corp., which is responsible for providing money to help developers build low-income housing. Alexander said he has begun questioning why the corporation needs any more money right now when there are plenty of empty houses in Florida due to the recession. Scott noted that he did not recommend any additional funding for them.
* Scott and Alexander started talking about property insurance. The governor repeated his vow to make changes this year to Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state-created carrier of last resort. "Everyone understands we need to fix Citizens this year," Scott said.
* During dinner, Scott repeated a line from his budget rollout where he said "we shouldn't’t have fiefdoms" in state government. This came from a discussion on why on Florida’s highways there were separate weigh stations for Department of Transportation and interdiction stations for the Department of Agriculture.
* Scott also said he is a "few days" away from naming someone in state government to take control of economic development efforts. This was part of an overall discussion in which Alexander asked questions about whether Scott has been successful in talking to companies moving here, and what kinds of things he is hearing about those who may, or may not, move to Florida.
* Gardiner briefly mentioned to Scott concerns about the use of psychotropic drugs on foster children. He relayed how Sen. Ronda Storms cared very much about the issue and that she would be pursuing it again this coming session. Gardiner also said that Storms had already met the new head of the Department of Children and Families and "hugged him."
* Gardiner also urged the governor to help Florida retain – and even attract – Major League Baseball teams to Florida. Scott, who once was a part owner of the Texas Rangers, said he wants to make sure the state doesn’t lose any more teams and that he wants to "put a focus" on many things the state can do to help its sports teams and have people come to the state because of the teams.