Sunday, December 17, 2017
Politics

Scott vetoes four budget-related bills, including hurricane catastrophe fund proposal

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott vetoed four budget-related measures Friday, including one designed to shore up the state hurricane catastrophe fund by selling tax credits to insurance companies.

The so-called Florida Insurance Tax Pre-Payment Program was pushed by banking industry lobbyists and was one of the last budgetary maneuvers by Senate Budget Chairman JD Alexander, R-Lake Wales.

But Scott opposed the last-minute maneuvering.

"The language was not fully vetted through the committee process and emerged late in the budget conference," Scott said in a veto message.

Alexander has said that the pre-payment program was suggested by banks, but that even if the bill became law, it would have required approval of Scott and the Cabinet.

With the CAT fund facing a $3 billion deficit and Florida headed into another hurricane season, Alexander said it made sense for banks and insurers to receive up to $1.5 billion in tax credits over a 10-year period by paying their state premium taxes ahead of time.

Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, one of three senators who voted against the bill (HB 5505), praised Scott's action.

"I believe this would have been another bailout for the private companies," Fasano said.

Scott also vetoed a bill that would have created "GatorCare," by allowing the University of Florida to implement its own health insurance program. The governor said he vetoed the bill (HB 5009) because its financial impact on the state employees' health care program had not been fully analyzed.

Scott vetoed a bill (HB 5011) creating a new 16-member state technology office under his control and eliminating current plans for a statewide email system. He said the bill "creates an inflexible and ineffective landscape" and would have limited innovation.

He also vetoed a bill making major changes to programs to prepare children for school. Scott said the bill (HB 5013) could jeopardize some federal funds for early learning programs and would have jeopardized funding that helps Florida residents find jobs.

Among the bills Scott signed Friday was HB 5005, a bill that reduces contributions to the retirement accounts of more than 100,000 state workers who are enrolled in 401(k)-like investment plans as an alternative to the state pension fund.

Most employees affected by the reduced contributions work in law enforcement or higher education. They will now have less money in their retirement nest eggs.

In signing the bill, Scott said: "This legislation takes a positive step toward addressing the overall costs of the Florida Retirement System, making the overall retirement benefits more affordable for Florida's taxpayers."

Times/Herald staff writers Tia Mitchell and Toluse Olorunnipa contributed to this report. Steve Bousquet can be reached at [email protected] or (850) 224-7263.

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