Gardiner: Enterprise Florida survival at stake after incentives die
Senate President Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, says he personally delivered the unpleasant news to Gov. Rick Scott last Friday that Enterprise Florida will have no new money next year for incentives to attract jobs.
"He was disappointed, and rightfully so," Gardiner said in an interview in his Capitol office, recalling their conversation. "I said, 'Governor, there comes a point where the Senate backed you on the incentives, we did everything we could, but now we have to start thinking about how we bring this thing in for a landing.' And with no movement from the House, we really were in a situation where we needed to move on."
Gardiner said Enterprise Florida, the public-private partnership that recruits companies to the state, now needs to develop a strategy to "survive" without taxpayer support.
The Senate backed Scott's call for a record $250 million for a new "enterprise fund" over three years, which Scott and EFI said they needed for Florida to compete with other states for jobs, mostly through a program known as the Quick Action Closing Fund. But the next cadre of House leaders, led by House Appropriations Chairman Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, vehemently opposes subsidizing corporate America, even though the House supported $43 million for the same programs a year ago.
House sources say Scott's top aides never seriously tried to negotiate for a smaller pot of money, a strategy that proved disastrous. The Senate's decision to capitulate to Corcoran surprised House Speaker Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island, but Gardiner said Senate leaders faced the reality that the House firmly opposed the idea.
"You don't necessarily agree with it, but you have to accept it and move on," Gardiner said. "If you want to get out of here on time, you've got to make some tough decisions. That was one of those."