By GARY FINEOUT
Feb. 07, 2017
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday lashed out against GOP House Speaker Richard Corcoran, escalating an already growing feud over state spending on programs that Scott maintains have helped the state’s economy recover since the Great Recession.
Corcoran, contending the state is spending money on corporate welfare, wants the Florida Legislature to scuttle the state’s tourism marketing agency and shut down the organization charged with recruiting new businesses to the state.
That has drawn the ire of Scott, who suggested that Corcoran, an attorney from Land O’ Lakes, and other House Republicans are turning their backs on residents who need jobs. He said that House Republicans should stop “lecturing” him since they didn’t know what it was like to struggle for a paycheck or run a business. Scott also suggested Corcoran’s opposition was based more on politics.
“We’re seeing people that just want to run for higher office; they’re not concerned about what happens to other people,” Scott said. “They just think it’s a nice soundbite. I’m extremely disappointed in the House’s action. They are not thinking about the future of this state.”
Scott, a former health care executive who is mulling his own run for U.S. Senate in 2018, has often had tensions with fellow Republicans during his six years as governor, but this marks one of the few times he has been so openly disdainful. He ramped up his criticism even though the House proposals haven’t had their first hearing yet. The session formally starts in March.
Corcoran wasted little time in responding forcefully to the governor’s comments – and raised questions as to whether the state’s support of business incentives has produced substantive results as Scott contends.
“We were elected to do what is right and clean up government, put an end to the waste of taxpayer money, and end the culture of corruption,” Corcoran said in a statement. “The governor cannot be surprised that we will do the right thing regardless of the consequences.”
The two main agencies targeted by the House are Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida. Both have seen increased scrutiny over their spending, including a Visit Florida deal where rap star Pitbull was paid $1 million to promote the state. The leaders of both organizations have been replaced in the past year. Last week Corcoran compared Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida to “cockroaches” that come out in the middle of the night.
Scott, who released his budget recommendations last week, is asking legislators to set aside $85 million for business incentives and $76 million for Visit Florida.
The move by Scott is a signal that this year’s session and the passage of a new state budget will likely be contentious and may not be wrapped up within the normal 60-day session. So far, key Senate Republicans are siding with the governor. State legislators must pass a budget by the end of June or they will risk a state government shutdown.
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