TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – With lawmakers increasingly willing to challenge his priorities midway through his second term, Gov. Rick Scott is set to pledge during Tuesday’s opening of the annual legislative session that he will fight for his policies.
Excerpts of Scott’s annual “State of the State” speech, released late Monday by his office, are in keeping with the combative tone that has recently marked the governor’s relationship with lawmakers in general and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, in particular.
Scott will draw a connection between his willingness to push ahead with his priorities and the tragedies the state has weathered over the last year, from the Pulse nightclub attack to the Zika virus to the Fort Lauderdale airport shootings.
“And, if there is one thing you remember from this speech today, I hope it is this: Florida is a state full of fighters, and I will never stop fighting for our families,” the excerpts said.
It’s not clear if Scott will put forward any new legislative priorities during Tuesday’s speech before a joint meeting of the House and Senate. The governor has rarely used the State of the State address as an opportunity to do so, but one excerpt released Monday hints that he could seek a constitutional amendment or other way to prevent tax increases in the future.
“My goal before I leave office is that we work together on a solution to make it harder for any future legislature — even one not as conservative as we have here today — to raise taxes,” Scott will tell lawmakers.
But the excerpts do not include any specific outline of Scott’s idea.
Also absent from the portions released Tuesday is any mention of Scott’s largest difference with Corcoran: the House’s drive to eliminate economic development incentives and curb the activities of Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing arm.
Scott will once again pitch his proposal to reduce a sales tax on business leases by $454 million a year, cutting the tax by 25 percent. That initiative makes up the bulk of Scott’s tax-cut package, which would cost $618 million a year if completely phased in.
“Our Fighting for Florida’s Future tax cut package will boost our economy and encourage businesses of all sizes to create jobs and build opportunities for generations of Floridians,” Scott plans to say. “Let’s remember, when jobs are created, it helps the poorest, most disadvantaged families who need a job the most … families just like mine when I was growing up.”
Some lawmakers, though, have indicated that Scott’s overall tax-cut package might be too large and that they are not as keen on cutting the lease tax as Scott is. House Ways & Means Chairman Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton, said the governor’s recommendation may be “a little ambitious.”
“I don’t have a number in mind,” Boyd said after his committee reviewed Scott’s proposal. “I mean $600 million is pretty strong. I’d love for his number to be correct, because that means we’re in better shape than we think we are in terms of the money that will be available to use.”
The News Service of Florida’s Brandon Larrabee contributed to this report.