PolitiFact Florida: Rick Scott's defense of agencies off the mark
Gov. Rick Scott is painting fellow Republicans as job-killers for their support of a bill that would decimate the state's agencies for tourism promotion and business incentives.
Scott has escalated his feud with House Speaker Richard Corcoran by calling out legislators on their own turf for votes in committee to dismantle Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida. Scott credits these two groups for helping usher 1.2 million private-sector jobs into the state since he was elected.
In his view, a vote to eliminate the agencies is a vote against jobs.
At a stop of the "Fighting for Florida's Jobs" tour in Flagler Beach, Scott targeted the bill's sponsor, Rep. Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast.
"Your politicians in Tallahassee today are saying, in your area, that they don't need any more jobs," Scott said Feb. 13 to business leaders and constituents at Vessel Sandwich Co. "That is exactly what Rep. Paul Renner said."
Scott continued, "He said, 'I will sponsor the bill to eliminate marketing for tourists.' He sponsored the bill to do that and to get rid of Visit Florida."
Scott is using the jobs argument a lot lately (though not for the employees who work at the agencies).
• "When they want to say we don't want to do any more marketing for Visit Florida, what they are saying is that we don't need any more jobs in tourism." (Miami Herald)
• "It's pretty clear, if you're not caring about people's jobs you must be caring about something else," he said. "I care about people's jobs. What else can it be?" (Miami Herald)
• "How can anybody say they don't want to help a poor family get a job?" (Miami Herald)
His attack against Renner misrepresents Renner's view. There is no record of Renner saying exactly that his area doesn't need more jobs.
Scott press secretary Kerri Wyland said Scott's point is focused on the effect of Renner's proposal.
"By choosing to sponsor this job-killing legislation, Rep. Renner is telling families in the counties he serves that the area does not need more jobs," she said.
Renner doesn't see the legislation as a crusade against jobs. He jokingly offered $100 to anyone who heard those words come out of his mouth.
When he introduced the bill, Renner brought up a philosophical difference with Scott about the fairness of economic incentives, arguing the money could be better spent to benefit more people.
"We should be taking the hundreds of millions of dollars we're spending on the privileged few — those few companies that are able to navigate the system — for broad-based tax reform," Renner said Feb. 8 at the House Careers and Competition Subcommittee meeting. "Tax reform that benefits all businesses, small, medium and large, and if we do that we will continue to be one of the leading states in the country for job growth."
In an interview with PolitiFact Florida, Renner said he prefers tax money to be invested in public safety, infrastructure and education — not marketing campaigns or incentives. He's also disappointed in executives for awarding bonuses and increasing salaries of executives with state dollars.
As for the jobs situation in Renner's area, the unemployment rate for Flagler County (home to Flagler Beach and Renner's Palm Coast) has been slightly higher than the state average but not alarmingly so. In December 2016, the Florida rate was 4.9 percent, compared with 5.4 percent (preliminary) in Flagler. That's down from the county's 12.3 percent rate in December 2010, before Scott took office.
Scott may be hoping the legislation is a turnoff in Renner's district, but he has some competition from the other side. Americans For Prosperity Florida started mailing fliers to Renner's constituents, urging them to continue to support Renner's efforts to dismantle a "rigged" system.
And on Wednesday, the Florida House of Representatives released a YouTube video on social media that uses clips of news reports about failed projects and ends with President Ronald Reagan.
"I am sure he was speaking figuratively when he said that we're not in favor of jobs," Renner said of Scott. "The Florida House is full of people who believe in jobs and prosperity for everyone."