Gov. Rick Scott wouldn’t say Friday whether he would sign a budget from the Legislature that fails to include his requests for tourism-marketing and business-recruitment money.
But he doesn’t expect a newly introduced bill that would eliminate Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida to survive the upcoming session.
“I’m very comfortable that there is no way a bill like that is going to go through the Legislature,” Scott told reporters attending the second day of his “jobs summit” at the Caribe Royale Orlando.
While speaking from the stage earlier in the day, Scott repeated his call for help in his battle against state lawmakers opposed to his budget proposals to spend $85 million on business-recruitment incentives and $76 million for tourism marketing.
“If we don’t, we’re not going to see the job growth we’re seeing,” Scott said as he opened the second day of the event. “We’re on an unbelievable roll right now. We’ve got to keep this going.”
As during the first day of the summit, Scott’s spending proposals were promoted as a way to help maintain economic growth the state has experienced in recent years.
Also, Scott supporters say legislative rejection of the money would make the state less prepared to ward off the impacts of future recessions.
Enterprise Florida President Chris Hart said as the summit wrapped up that he heard a lot of talk in support of Scott’s requests, but that “nothing much will happen here unless we take action.”
Scott’s overall $83.5 billion budget proposal released Tuesday also includes $23.5 million for the daily operations at Enterprise Florida.
House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, has adamantly maintained that the state’s 2017-18 budget will not include incentive money.
Lawmakers will negotiate the budget during the session that starts March 7.
Corcoran has labeled business incentives as “corporate welfare” and questioned the need for the state to spend money on marketing to tourists.
Visit Florida has drawn added criticism from Corcoran and other lawmakers over how it has spent marketing dollars.
That criticism has included issues such as $1 million contract with Miami hip-hop artist Armando Christian Perez, better known as Pitbull, and sponsorships of the London-based Fulham Football Club and an IMSA racing team.
The House last week rolled out a 172-page bill (PCB CCS 17-01) that would make major changes in economic-development laws, including abolishing Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida.
The House Careers & Competition Subcommittee will take up the bill Wednesday.
House Careers & Competition Subcommittee member Joe Gruters, a Sarasota Republican who attended the jobs summit Friday, backed Scott on the need to keep funding the agencies.
“I think we need to reform it, make it more transparent, make it more open,” Gruters said. “But by taking the measure all the way to zero would be huge mistake for the state of Florida. … By taking this tool out of our arsenal of things we could use, Florida would be going backwards in terms of job creation.”