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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Rick Scott's twin goals still in trouble as Legislature enters the home stretch



Gov. Rick Scott's greatest source of enduring frustration, the Florida Legislature, is once again threatening to derail his political agenda as the 2016 session enters the home stretch.

Scott's insistence on $1 billion in tax cuts appears dead in the Senate, a result of conflicting priorities and a slight dip in the state's revenue picture. His call for a $250 million pot of incentive money to compete for jobs with other states is colliding with a conservative House wary of so much corporate generosity.

Scott's must-do list is short, as usual, and lawmakers know that by waiting him out they stand to gain leverage in the session's remaining days. While the rancor of last year is gone, differences linger as Scott and his fellow Republicans dart off in different directions:

• On gambling, Scott's call for an extension of a compact with the Seminole Tribe of Florida faces strong resistance in the Senate, which is protective of pari-mutuel interests and their legions of lobbyists.

• On education, Scott's call for a boost in per-pupil spending has hit a wall of opposition from Republican senators who refuse to pay for it with what they call an election year property tax increase.

• On politics, some Republicans want to strip the governor of his power to appoint two top officials who oversee education and elections. While not likely to pass, it's a sign of dissatisfaction with both agencies, a symbolic thumb in Scott's eye.

Senators are giving one of Scott's most important appointees, Surgeon General John Armstrong, unusual scrutiny as he seeks a confirmation vote to keep his job.

Lawmakers want to give across-the-board pay raises to multiple groups of state employees who have had a raise once in a decade. That is squarely at odds with Scott, who favors bonuses tied to the performance of workers and agencies.

Seeking to build momentum for his priorities, Scott took the unusual step of personally lobbying for his tax cut proposals in the House and Senate after accepting invitations from both.

But he still prefers to communicate with voters rather than the lawmakers who control his agenda a few floors above him in the Capitol.

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[Last modified: Friday, February 19, 2016 11:00am]


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