Gov. Rick Scott expanded the call of the Legislature’s special session Friday to include money he wants to repair the Herbert Hoover Dike and higher education investments important to the Senate.
And here are the details that got us here:
The Senate will relent on trying to appropriate more money for hospitals; there will be nothing that looks like a tax increase; Scott will allow restoration of $60 million in preferred Senate projects; there will be no changes in the ‘required local effort’ part of public schools funding.
These widgets will be in the House’s bill on the Florida Education Finance Program, sources said.
Scott will get $50 million to repair the dike. House Speaker Richard Corcoran had proposed the changes in a letter to Scott earlier in the day.
The Senate earlier was in recess pending what President Joe Negron referred to as “an amendment being prepared based on current developments.”
Corcoran put forward the dam project as economic development spending, fully compatible with the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund created in legislation that cleared the House floor earlier Friday.
The deal lacks $100 million the Senate sought to ameliorate Medicaid reimbursement cuts to Florida hospitals. It wouldn’t increase taxes or change local schools property taxes. It would include $60 million for Senate higher education projects, and $50 million for the dike.
“This disaster has all the characteristics and consequences that the (fund) is designed to address,” Corcoran wrote — specifically, “the devastating economic impact resulting from the blue-green algae bloom in South Florida” last summer.
“The House believes infrastructure projects, such as the rehabilitation of the Herbert Hoover Dike, can assist economic recovery and support the area’s workforce,” he wrote.
Corcoran noted that “your friendship with President Trump” has resulted a promise for federal matching money for the $200 million project, which Scott urged the Legislature to support during the regular session.
Negron on Thursday evening demanded respect for the Senate’s higher education priorities — he wants Florida’s colleges and universities to rank among the nation’s best. The upper chamber has voted to override Scott’s vetoes of $75 million in higher ed projects.
Corcoran found a way to qualify those projects as economic incentives. “These institutions can and ahould provide ongoing research, training, and support for local economic recovery,” he wrote.
“As I have publicly stated, the House will not participate in any legislative action to override your higher education project vetoes,” Corcoran stressed.
“However, with your agreement, we can support more conservative appropriations to provide funding for higher education projects that will contribute to the broader goal of strong public infrastructure and a skilled workforce.”
Scott confirmed in a written statement that Trump has promised money to fix the dike, which surrounds Lake Okeechobee.
“Along with SB 10, a major priority for Senate President Joe Negron, that I signed into law last month, repairing the Herbert Hoover Dike will ensure that future generations of Floridians will not be plagued with safety concerns during flooding events and problems with algae. I urge the Legislature to take up this call and fund these critical repairs,” Scott said.
“Also, today, I updated the call to include higher education funding. Last week, I signed a historic $4.9 billion budget for Florida’s universities, which is a $174 million increase over last year,” Scott continued.
“By adding higher education to the topics that can be considered during the ongoing special session, the Legislature will have the opportunity to modify these issues for my consideration.”