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Jax Daily Record Tuesday, Nov. 14, 201705:01 PM EST

Scott’s final budget also is his biggest

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Term-limited governor unveils $87.4 billion spending plan.
by: David Cawton Staff Writer

Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced a proposed $87.4 billion budget Tuesday for 2018-19 that includes billions for transportation, education, business development and law enforcement. 

It’s the last budget for Scott, who leaves office in early 2019 because of term limits.

Scott’s final budget, called “Securing Florida’s Future,” is the largest he has introduced since being elected in 2011. The Legislature approved his current $83 billion budget in June. 

Speaking to reporters Tuesday at Northern Tool + Equipment on Atlantic Boulevard in Arlington, Scott called the spending legislation historic, touting its increased funding for transportation, business development, law enforcement and education. 

“There’s three things people care about,” Scott said. “They want a good job, they want their kids and grandkids to get a great education and they want to live in a safe community.”

Increased spending for state roads and infrastructure could dovetail with Mayor Lenny Curry’s request for $12.5 million in state funding for the removal of exit ramps linking the Hart Bridge to Downtown. 

The city also is seeking a $25 million federal transportation grant to help pay for the project. 

Scott’s plan would increase the Florida Department of Transportation budget by roughly $7.7 billion next year. 

Scott said he proposes $10.8 billion in funding for transportation, “including significant investments right here in Northeast Florida, including funding for the deepening of JaxPort.”

JaxPort has been working to dredge the St. Johns River to clear the path for larger cargo ships.

Another area of concern for North Florida is funding for economic development and business recruitment. 

Scott’s budget includes $1.2 billion for the Department of Economic Opportunity, a nearly $275 million increase. 

It includes $153.5 million for the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and $343.2 million for workforce development. 

CareerSource Florida, a statewide professional and employment services board, would have a $33.6 million budget, a $5 million increase. 

One difference in the DEO’s budget is the inclusion of line items for Visit Florida, Enterprise Florida Inc. and the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund. 

They appear as part of the DEO’s $284 million Strategic Business Development budget, which was about $78 million last year. 

During the last legislative session, Scott and Republican lawmakers butted heads but eventually compromised on how the state determines and distributes incentives for economic development and tourism. 

Instead of financial incentives going directly to companies via Enterprise Florida, Scott created an $85 million Florida Job Growth Grant Fund, which uses incentives to pay for infrastructure and workforce training. 

“We’ll do the same thing this year,” Scott said about providing $85 million for the fund and $100 million for Visit Florida. 

“You can see the importance for things like Visit Florida after a hurricane like Irma,” Scott said.  “Because you have to get your message out that the beaches are back open.”

Enterprise Florida’s proposed budget is $23.7 million. 

Scott was less forthcoming when asked why Enterprise Florida refuses to divulge information surrounding bids to secure Amazon.com’s second North American headquarters, despite the online retailer saying it had no problem with cities or states making certain information like incentives packages or site selections public.  

“You’d have to reach out to Enterprise Florida,” he said. 

Last week, Scott announced the budget would contain $180 million in tax cuts, which include additional sales tax holidays and reduced fees for driver’s licenses. It’s considered one of the smallest tax cut proposals since he took office in 2011. 

Scott also said the budget will set aside $5 billion in reserves. 

State lawmakers will dissect Scott’s proposed budget during the legislative session beginning in January. 

Scott declined to say whether there were any budget requests that didn’t make the cut. 

“There’s always more things to do,” Scott said. “I’ve got 419 days to go, and I’m going to continue to fight for Florida families.” 

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