TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Saying Florida needs to be in “the game” of trying to lure new companies, Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday said he will ask state legislators to give him $85 million in the coming year for incentives.
The move is sure to set up yet another showdown with the Republican-controlled Legislature, since the next House speaker has already labeled business incentives “corporate welfare” and has suggested that any spending on economic development efforts is wasteful.
Last year the GOP governor asked for $250 million in incentives only to end up frustrated after state legislators rejected the request and refused to grant any new funding.
Scott announced his proposal during an Orlando meeting of Enterprise Florida, the state’s economic development agency, which is also in danger of being eliminated. Rep. Richard Corcoran, a Land O’Lakes Republican who will become speaker in November, has singled out the organization as a place to cut the state’s budget.
Scott, who has made job creation his top priority during his five years in office, touted incentives as part of his ongoing effort to accelerate job growth in the state.
“We lost of a lot of projects because we could not be in the game,” Scott told Enterprise Florida board members, many of whom are executives at some of the state’s largest corporations. “We have to be in the game if we want to keep winning.”
Scott and Enterprise Florida have used business incentives to entice companies to relocate, or expand their operations in the state. Florida usually promises cash payments to companies once they met certain job creation goals. Scott, who has traveled to other states in an effort to entice companies to move, has insisted that the cash payments are needed to help Florida keep pace with other states engaged in similar efforts.
“It’s important for us every day to not lose focus on what Enterprise Florida does. We create jobs for Florida families,” Scott said.
While some Republican legislators share Scott’s viewpoint, top leaders such as Corcoran do not. Rep. Jose Oliva, a Miami Republican in line to become speaker after Corcoran, has pointed out how Florida’s drop in unemployment has mirrored the national drops and has suggested that the state’s recovery is due to national trends not actions taken by the state.
Corcoran reiterated his opposition shortly after Scott’s announcement, saying in a statement that the “House’s position on this issue is clear.”
“The government engaging in social engineering to pick winners and losers to benefit the 1 percent is a bad deal for Florida’s taxpayers,” Corcoran said. “There will not be any corporate welfare in the House budget.”
Scott said that his proposal, which would be considered during the 2017 session that starts in March, would also include recommendations on changing the structure of Enterprise Florida. The state-created entity was set up two decades ago as a public-private partnership, but it still relies heavily on money from taxpayers for its operations.