Monday, June 18, 2018
Politics

Clock ticks down as Rick Scott makes case on jobs, tourism

TALLAHASSEE — Seven hundred and sixty-three days.

That's how many more days Rick Scott will be the governor of Florida.

Scott, who keeps a "countdown clock" in his Capitol office, mentioned the 763 days (as of Monday) in a speech at Associated Industries of Florida's annual conference.

Things in Florida just couldn't be better, Scott said.

As evidence, he cited the popularity of the state as a tourist destination, the 350,000 new residents who arrive each year, all the new jobs and the decline in unemployment — and on top of all that, Donald Trump will soon be in the White House, helping Florida succeed.

"This state's on a roll," Scott told the friendly, pro-business crowd. "There's no place like Florida."

To keep the momentum going, Scott said, the Legislature must support two of his signature programs: Enterprise Florida, which uses cash, tax credits and other incentives to attract jobs, and Visit Florida, which promotes Florida to the world as a tourist destination.

"The system works," Scott told reporters after his speech. "We hold people accountable."

He said proof of that is the case reported by the Fort Myers News-Press about Altair Training Solutions, a company that promised 150 new, high-paying jobs in Hendry and Collier counties but failed to deliver on most of them. Because the company fell short, it did not receive the incentives promised by the state.

"The money didn't go out because they didn't hit their numbers," Scott said.

Scott is expected to ask fellow Republicans in the Legislature to commit tens of millions of dollars to both programs next session.

He'll likely have support in the Senate, but it will be a very different story in the House.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, made it clear that he questions both programs.

"They're not consistent with our principles," Corcoran told reporters Monday, citing news reports about controversy with the Sanford Burnham research center in Orlando. "The facts bear out that they really don't succeed."

Corcoran used that word, "principles," several times in his talk to AIF on Monday. He and his colleagues say he absolutely means what he says — and that could be very bad news for the governor.

Corcoran calls job incentives "corporate welfare," and in a session with reporters, he said this about using tax dollars to promote tourism:

"They don't work, and when it comes to Visit Florida, you can't even remotely make the case."

He noted that Visit Florida did not exist before 1996, yet Florida has been a top tourist destination for decades.

"It's a funny thing. No tourists came before 1996," Corcoran said. "Then, in 1996, we formed this agency and we started giving them money and then we started getting tourists. It's fascinating how that works."

The upbeat governor said all the right things about how he and the Legislature will work together for the betterment of Florida.

But on Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, Scott needs to change Corcoran's mind, and he has only 763 days.

Contact Steve Bousquet at [email protected] Follow @stevebousquet.

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