Scott Tries To Rally Support In Incentives Fight

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ORLANDO (CBSMiami/NSF) – Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday urged members of Enterprise Florida to lobby lawmakers as the business-recruitment agency and tourism-marketer Visit Florida have been put on the chopping block by House leaders.

Scott, who was scheduled Thursday afternoon to start hosting a two-day jobs summit in Orlando, continued his push for economic incentives and tourism-marketing money during a morning meeting of the public-private Enterprise Florida at the Caribe Royale Orlando.

“Let House members in your area, and your senators, know,” Scott said.

As he did when rolling out an $83.5 billion budget proposal on Tuesday, Scott called tourism marketing a brace against future recessions. But he faces opposition on economic-development issues from House Speaker Richard Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican who has harshly criticized state funding for Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida.

“We don’t have an opportunity every day to get a corporate office, a manufacturing plant, a regional office, a back office,” Scott said. “It doesn’t happen every day. You have to recruit these companies when they are ready to be recruited and when they are ready to make a decision.”

Scott’s comments came as a House panel is slated next week to start looking at the possibility of eliminating Enterprise Florida.

A 172-page bill, which will go before the House Careers & Competition Subcommittee on Wednesday, would make wide-ranging changes in economic development, including abolishing Visit Florida, repealing laws that established and govern Enterprise Florida and transferring funds related to Enterprise Florida programs to the state Department of Economic Opportunity.

The committee proposal reflects the sentiments of Corcoran, who has called business-recruitment incentives “corporate welfare” and “de facto socialism.”

During an annual Associated Press event Tuesday at the Capitol, Corcoran said “there won’t be any incentives in the budget.”

Scott’s budget proposal, which will be considered by lawmakers during the legislative session that starts March 7, included $85 million for business-recruitment incentives, $76 million for Visit Florida tourism marketing and $19.5 million for operations and “job creation” at Space Florida.

Scott’s budget also includes $23.5 million for the daily operations at Enterprise Florida.

The Enterprise Florida Board of Directors includes representatives of some of the most-influential companies in the state, such as Florida Blue, Publix Super Markets, Gulf Power, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts, Darden Restaurants, TECO Energy, Duke Energy, Florida Power & Light and AT&T.

But Scott also tried to rally business leaders before the 2016 legislative session to help sway lawmakers to approve $250 million that would have gone to Enterprise Florida for economic incentives. That proposal died in the Legislature.

The News Service of Florida’s Jim Turner contributed to this report.

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