By BRANDON LARRABEE
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, March 13, 2017……… Gov. Rick Scott on Monday continued his campaign against House Republicans who oppose economic- development spending, telling a business roundtable in Tallahassee that bills approved last week would cause some families to lose their jobs.
Scott also declined to rule out vetoing the budget for the year that begins July 1 if it doesn’t include funding for business incentives.
The roundtable event, at Danfoss Turbocor Compressors Inc., came three days after House members approved legislation that would abolish business-recruitment agency Enterprise Florida and overhaul tourism marketer Visit Florida.
As he has done at other stops during a recent media blitz aimed at saving business incentives, Scott singled out a local lawmaker: Rep. Halsey Beshears, R-Monticello.
“Why in the world would Halsey Beshears or anybody else vote to eliminate Enterprise Florida and decimate Visit Florida?” Scott told reporters after meeting with business leaders and state economic development officials. “This is about some family getting a job. I’m going to fight for those families all this session.”
The showdown over incentives has escalated into one of the most heated clashes between Scott and legislative Republicans since the governor took office in 2011. Scott used a sizable piece of his “State of the State” address last week to blast House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, and others who oppose the incentives.
A bipartisan group of legislators critical of Enterprise Florida say the spending represents “corporate welfare” that gives some businesses special privileges. The Visit Florida reform measure follows attacks on the agency for a controversial $1 million contract with Miami hip-hop artist Pitbull to promote Florida.
“There are better, higher uses for that money, whether it’s public safety, whether it’s quality education, or infrastructure,” Rep. Paul Renner, a Palm Coast Republican who is sponsoring the bills, said after the Enterprise Florida measure was approved Friday.
But Scott was unapologetic Monday for savaging Republicans, even as he applauded House members Ramon Alexander and Loranne Ausley, a pair of Tallahassee Democrats, for voting against the bills on Enterprise Florida (HB 7005) and Visit Florida (HB 9).
“Whoever votes to help me make sure we get more jobs, I’m going to praise them,” Scott said. “If you’re going to vote to decimate the job market in this state, I’m not going to praise you.”
When asked, Scott also declined to rule out vetoing the entire state budget — an extraordinarily rare move in Florida, given the line-item veto — if it does not include funding for incentives.
“I’m going to do my best to work through the session, make sure the right thing happens during session,” Scott said. “But … at the end of the session, I’ll go through (the budget). I have the opportunity to review the budget. I have the opportunity to review every line in the budget and that’s what I’ll do. I’ve done it for six years, I’ll do it for my seventh.”
The setting of Monday’s roundtable was symbolic: The governor’s office credited Enterprise Florida with helping Danfoss Turbocor create 198 jobs.
But the focus was also on the proposal to revamp Visit Florida and expectations that the House will look for deep cuts in the agency’s spending.
Bill Talbert, the president and CEO of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, pointed to the tourism records that have been set under Scott, including 113 million visitors last year.
“To think that you can reduce that dollar amount and continue to have those records is … beyond comprehension,” Talbert said.
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