Friday, November 24, 2017
Politics

Gov. Rick Scott calls for $85 million for Florida jobs incentive program

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TALLAHASSEE — Despite being snubbed by the Legislature six months ago, Gov. Rick Scott is again pressing lawmakers for money to give to businesses in exchange for them moving to Florida and creating jobs.

But Thursday, within minutes of Scott announcing his 2017-18 budget proposal will include $85 million for Enterprise Florida, the incoming leader of the Florida House made certain there is no gray area about where he stands.

"There will not be any corporate welfare in the House budget," said Speaker-designate Richard Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes.

He said the government engaging in picking winners and losers in business is a "bad deal for Florida taxpayers."

Last year, Scott asked for $250 million and the House refused to give him any.

But there was Scott in a ballroom in Orlando speaking to Enterprise Florida officials on Thursday and telling them he will not give up fighting to fund the agency's job recruitment program.

"I ran on a mission to turn Florida's economy around, and while we have added over 1 million jobs in just 5½ years, I will keep fighting for jobs until my very last day as governor," Scott said.

Later, Scott told reporters that Florida needs the incentive program "to be in the game" to compete with other states to persuade companies to move to Florida.

"I just can't imagine anybody's going to vote against it," Scott said.

Scott promised to propose legislation that aims to continue to restructure Enterprise Florida after an audit in the spring warned that the agency was "top heavy" with management, spent too much on office space, needed to rein in travel expenses and lacked internal controls that made it ripe for fraud.

"We know that EFI needs to be reformed to get back to its core mission of job creation," Scott said.

The agency is still without a leader. In March, Scott announced Bill Johnson was leaving. Though he was never declared to have been fired, Johnson received $132,500 in severance pay when his tenure officially ended in June.

While Corcoran is a tough sell, Scott could have allies in the Senate. State Sen. Jack Latvala, the Clearwater Republican who is set to become chairman of the Senate's budget writing committee, said he backed Scott's $250 million request last year and believes in job incentive funding through Enterprise Florida. Latvala said he can't say if $85 million is the right amount, but said that's the number Scott should have asked for last year.

"If he had asked for $85 million last year, he would have got it, in my opinion," Latvala said.

While Scott is required to submit a proposed budget annually, the Legislature is charged with writing the budget. The Legislature next meets in its annual session in March 2017.

Times staff writer Jeff Harrington contributed to this report.

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