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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Rick Scott continues to press Legislature on job creation funding



Gov. Rick Scott implored some of the most well-connected business leaders in Florida to continue to turn up the political pressure on the state Legislature to give him $250 million to help recruit more businesses to move to Florida.

Speaking to about 90 people at the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors dinner on Thursday night in Tallahassee, Scott repeatedly urged the audience to call state lawmakers and make a pitch for the funding as a key tool to continue growing the state's economy.

"We have to have this money," Scott said. "Call everybody you know in the House and Senate."

Scott said with the money he can work out deals with new industries to move to Florida to further diversify the state's economy so young people don't have to leave the state to work in the profession they choose. He said he wants an economy where no matter what profession his grandchildren chooses, they won't have to leave the state. He told the group about how his oldest grandson Auguste frequently changes what he wants to be when he grows up.

"Whatever he wants to be, I want him to be in Florida," Scott said. 

Scott was speaking to leaders of Enterprise Florida, a public-private hybrid that relies on taxpayer support for a half-dozen programs that use cash incentives and tax refunds to lure jobs. The group has a 64-member board of directors which includes representatives from some of the biggest businesses in Florida, like Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, Publix and Florida Power & Light. 

His comments came on the same day that a key Florida Senate budget writing committee took steps toward giving Scott what he wants. The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development proposed giving Scott $250 million for the business recruiting fund, but relies on settlement money from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion to cover $100 million of the funding. The state is expected to receive $400 million in settlement funds. State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, said 75 percent of that funding has to be used in counties in the Florida Panhandle, which was most affected by the spill. That leaves about $100 million to be used on economic development projects in the state, which Enterprise Florida would be qualified for.

Latvala is the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development, which has oversight over Enterprise Florida funds and proposed the $250 million on Thursday. The House has not yet designated any funding for the business recruitment fund.

In an interview with the Times/Herald Scott specifically said he wants $250 million to come from the state's general budget but did not rule out the Deepwater Horizon funding as a potential source.

"As long as it's revenue that I know is going to be there so I can do deals," Scott said.

The Legislature has not always been so receptive to Scott's proposals for the Enterprise Florida recruitment funds. Last year, legislators gave him about half of the $85 million he requested and the Senate spent hours this fall questioning how the program was structured and if it was really producing the kinds of high-paying jobs Florida needs. Scott has responded by running a publicity campaign, including television ads, to show legislators how much the $250 million is supported statewide.  

The governor's office has agreed to restructure how the program is run, giving state legislators more oversight over big deals in excess of $1 million. 

It is not the only budget priority Scott is fighting for. Scott also said on Thursday he is still confident he will get the $1 billion in tax cuts he is seeking. The majority of those cuts would go towards businesses, notably a $770 million annual cut in corporate income taxes charged to retailers and manufacturers. The House has not included the corporate income tax in their initial tax cut package and Senate leaders have questioned if the state really has the funding to provide such a large tax cut. Still Scott refused to concede the package of cuts is in jeopardy.

"I believe we will have a billion dollar in tax cuts the way I have proposed," Scott said.

[Last modified: Friday, January 29, 2016 7:35am]


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