Gov. Rick Scott Archives - Page 5 of 66 - Florida Politics

Rick Scott’s $83.5 billion state budget goes heavy on tax holidays

Gov. Rick Scott proposed an $83.5 billion state budget Tuesday that would include $618 million in tax cuts, $85 million in economic incentives, nearly $4 billion for environmental protection, and more than $5.1 billion for public safety.

Florida has added more than 1.2 million jobs during his tenure “because of our continued focus on cutting taxes, reducing burdensome regulations and fostering an environment where job creators can grow and succeed,” Scott said in unveiling his spending priorities in Tallahassee.

“Because our economy continues to grow, we are able to make these investments while also paying down debt and setting aside $5 billion in reserves,” he said during The Associated Press Legislative Planning Session at the Capitol.

“There are always people who say we can’t afford to cut taxes, make strategic investments in areas that are important to families, and provide savings to taxpayers. But they are absolutely wrong.”

Scott is sure to face resistance to elements of his proposals in the Legislature, where House Speaker Richard Corcoran has denounced economic incentives as “corporate welfare.” Click here for Corcoran’s remarks later in the day, and here for more about Scott’s economic development plans.

Scott defended such initiatives — including Visit Florida, the state’s tourism promotion agency, and Enterprise Florida, which provides incentives to businesses.

“I’m confident that every House and Senate member realizes the importance of funding economic incentive programs — especially the way we do it, where taxpayers actually get a return,” Scott said.

“We don’t put the money up until we know we’re going to get the jobs. If we get the jobs, we know we’re going to get tax revenues.”

Scott’s budget would include cuts to business taxes and rents; a one-year sales tax exemption for college textbooks; and a 10-day back-to-school sales tax holiday. Back-to-school fairs would enjoy a tax exemption.

There would be a nine-day disaster-preparedness tax holiday; a three-day veterans’ sales tax holiday; and a one-day camping and fishing sales tax holiday.

Scott’s “Fighting for Florida’s Future” budget would cut $8.1 million in fees for seniors, teachers, veterans and businesses.

The budget would provide nearly $21 billion for K-12 education and $6.6 billion for higher education, including for the Bright Futures Scholarship program.

There would be no tuition increase for college students.

Scott wants the state to leave the required local property tax rates for schools alone, to capture receipts attributable to rising property values. House leaders want to scale back the tax rate to keep tax receipts about the same.

Scott noted that the state’s share of education spending has grown over the years about local contributions.

“Anybody that understand that’s not a tax increase, I’d be surprised,” Scott said.

“I would assume those same people, then, are going to propose reducing sales taxes when they see a consumer good go up in price also. Under their scenario, that would be a tax increase, I presume.”

Scott would provide $65 million to protect Florida’s springs; $60 million to clean up Indian River Lagoon and the Caloosahatchee River; and $225 million for Everglades Cleanup.

He does not share Senate President Joe Negron’s interest in buying land around Lake Okeechobee for water storage. Still, “I like the fact that I’ve got a Senate president that cares about Okeechobee” and other environmental problems, Scott said.

Scott’s budget would include $14.6 million to give law enforcement officers a 5 percent pay raise. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement would get $5.8 million to hire 46 counterterrorism agents. There would be $45 million to hike pay for corrections officers.

The budget would provide $1 billion for mental health and substance abuse efforts, and a record $632 million for Florida’s child welfare system. He would spend more than $7.4 million to clear the Agency for Persons with Disabilities’ critical-needs waiting list.

The budget would represent a modest increase over current spending, which is $82.3 billion. Taxpayers would save $800 million, according to a FAQ report Scott’s aides provided during a background briefing. Additional details here; actual budget here.

Those savings include $581 million by trimming Medicaid reimbursements to hospitals, and $298 million in supplemental money for for-profit hospitals that stint on charity and uncompensated Medicaid care.

The budget does not assume the Trump administration will convert Medicaid into a block grant program, even though Scott supports such a move.

The plan assumes the Legislature will have $7.5 million after paying for “critical” needs including Medicaid and education, plus additional high-priority needs.

It would eliminate 266 state worker positions through streamlining and consolidating jobs. But it would add 327 jobs at the Department of Corrections; 90 at the Department of Children and Families mental health treatment facilities; and the additional counterterrorism jobs.

State workers would pay $50 per month for their health insurance, and $180 for family coverage, to save $21.8 million. An audit of dependent eligibility would save an estimated $45 million per year.

The plan calls for $5 billion in reserves, including $1.3 billion in unspent general revenues and $1.4 billion in the budget stabilization fund.

The only debt Scott envisions is for Department of Transportation infrastructure. But only if the department needs the money, aides said. Total transportation spending would hit $10.8 billion. Click here for details about Scott’s proposed cuts to South Florida’s Tri-Rail project.

The budget counts on $123.7 million in gambling proceeds from the Seminole Compact.

Scott would spend $1.9 million to add 21 epidemiologists to county health departments, to combat emerging health threats including Zika virus.

Joe Negron resigns from Gunster law firm

Senate President Joe Negron has resigned from the Gunster law firm, four days after Gov. Rick Scott suggested ethics reforms affecting lawyer-legislators.

Negron’s resignation was announced Monday by H. William ‘Bill’ Perry, Gunster’s managing shareholder.

Negron, a Stuart Republican, had been “of counsel” with the firm, usually referring to an attorney who works on a case-to-case basis for a firm, not as an associate or partner.

“Joe has been a great colleague and a valuable member of our litigation team,” Perry said in a statement. “We have accepted Joe’s resignation with both regret and the knowledge he will continue to dedicate his time and talents to the people of Florida as the leader of the Florida Senate.”

Last week, Scott had proposed a series of additional ethics measures to House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who has focused on heightening ethical standards and government transparency this year.

One provision would ban lawmakers from working for companies, including law firms, that lobby the Legislature. Gunster has a “Government Affairs Law & Lobbying” practice in Tallahassee.

And Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, is of counsel in the Tampa office of Broad and Cassel, practicing commercial litigation. That firm too has a government relations practice, including members who lobby in Tallahassee.

Negron’s webpage on the Gunster website, still active as of late Monday morning, showed that he practiced “business litigation” and “corporate law” for the firm, including “the defense of commercial law claims involving millions of dollars at stake.”

His “experience includes claims involving contract law, real estate and construction matters (including construction lien litigation), and insurance coverage,” the site said. “Of particular note, Joe defends litigation claims involving nautical and maritime law matters. He has also represented both for-profit and non-profit corporate directors and officers sued for breach of fiduciary duty.”

In a separate statement Monday, Negron said the “notion of a citizen legislature – people from all walks of life, business, and industry combining their experience and perspectives to form a government of, by, and for the people – has been a guiding principle of our country since its inception.”

“Florida’s part-time legislature, where elected officials, bound by term limits, live and work in the communities they serve, produces results for the people of this state that are far better than we could hope to see from full-time career politicians and bureaucrats,” he said. “Throughout my legislative service, I have carefully scrutinized my legal and legislative work to ensure I fully uphold the highest ethical standards.

“For the first time, I have reached a crossroads where my firmly held conviction to promote legislation that would benefit my constituents, community, and state has the potential to result in a possible perception of a conflict with my professional employment,” Negron added. “In the abundance of caution, to avoid even the possible appearance of such a difference, and to make certain I can continue to effectively advocate for my community, I have made the decision to step away from my position with the Gunster Law Firm.

“Practicing law at Gunster, a large statewide law firm, has been a tremendous opportunity to work with a very talented team of accomplished professionals. I will continue to practice law for the remainder of my time in the Senate and look forward to continuing to represent the citizens who elected me to serve in the Florida Senate.”

Scott’s move was seen by some as retaliation for Corcoran’s attacks on Scott’s agency heads, including deposed VISIT FLORIDA head Will Seccombe and DEP Secretary Jon Steverson, who quit to go work for a law firm to which he had steered millions in fees for outside legal work.

When asked last week whether Scott was being retaliatory “in any way, shape or form,” Corcoran said, “I always try to impute the best motive.”

Richard Corcoran: Rick Scott’s ethics proposals not personal

House Speaker Richard Corcoran Thursday told reporters he took no personal offense at ethics suggestions sent by Gov. Rick Scott.

Scott’s office earlier in the day sent Corcoran, who is on an ethics reform tear this year, more ideas, including a provision that would ban lawmakers from working for companies, including law firms, that lobby the Legislature.

Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican, is of counsel in the Tampa office of Broad and Cassel, practicing commercial litigation. The firm also has a government relations practice, including members who lobby in Tallahassee.

Scott also wants a ban on lawmakers working for companies that sue the state.

“I read the letter,” Corcoran said in an afternoon media availability. “Clearly, they have somebody in mind, it seems like. Somebody’s suing somebody; to my knowledge, it’s not me … but if that kind of behavior is taking the process in a place it shouldn’t be, then let’s have at it.”

Scott’s letter, sent from chief of staff Kim McDougal to Corcoran chief of staff Matt Bahl, outlines four suggestions:

— Immediately disclosing “all contracts legislators advocate for between state agencies, businesses, not for profit organizations, and/or any other entity that receives tax dollars.”

— Immediately banning lawmakers and staff involved in the state budget, “including the law firms they may work for or own, from suing state agencies…”

— Banning lawmakers from riding in airplanes “paid for by political committees and party executive committees.” A new House rule already prohibits House members from flying in lobbyists’ planes.

—”Shutting the revolving door to prohibit the employment of legislators by entities, including law firms, that employ lobbyists.”

“The power of the Legislature to appropriate funds allows individual legislators great influence over the actions of state agencies and other entities,” the letter says. “Therefore, the public deserves safeguards … to ensure that all funding decisions are made free of any undue influence, real or perceived.”

The House Public Integrity and Ethics Committee on Tuesday cleared two measures as part of Corcoran’s new “culture of transparency.”

One would increase the ban on former lawmakers and statewide officers lobbying their colleagues after leaving office from two years to six years by way of a constitutional amendment. The other “extend(s) the prohibition on legislators lobbying the executive branch” from two to six years after leaving office.

When asked whether Scott was being retaliatory “in any way, shape or form,” Corcoran said, “I always try to impute the best motive.”

water

DEP withdraws request to pay lawyers in ‘water war’

The Department of Environmental Protection has withdrawn a request to lawmakers for more money to pay lawyers waging a water use fight against Georgia, its spokeswoman says.

The department had planned to ask lawmakers for an additional $13 million to pay expected legal bills from the still-unresolved case. The Joint Legislative Budget Commission was scheduled to take up the request, among several others, at a 5 p.m. Tuesday meeting.

The litigation already has cost the state tens of millions of dollars—with no end in sight. A federal court official recently ordered attorneys for the two states to try again to settle the disagreement.

“DEP is working with members to provide more information on the costs associated with this litigation,” spokeswoman Lauren Engel said in a statement.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran on Monday night said his chamber wouldn’t entertain the request without a detailed audit of how DEP officials spent legal money already appropriated.

“We remain committed to being good stewards of taxpayer dollars,” she said. “The state of Florida has been fighting for nearly two decades to protect the historic flows of the Apalachicola River, and we will continue to protect Florida from the environmental and economic harms caused by Georgia’s overconsumption of water.”

DEP Secretary Jon Steverson quit last Friday, reportedly for a job at the Foley & Lardner law firm, according to a Scott spokesman. The firm still has not publicly confirmed the hire.

Foley & Lardner also is one of the firms representing the state in the 16-year long court fight over river water.

The dispute centers around upstream water use from the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers in Georgia. They meet at the Florida border to form the Apalachicola River, which empties into the Apalachicola Bay.

 

Rick Scott not bothered by Jon Steverson’s departure

Gov. Rick Scott suggested he wasn’t bothered by one of his agency heads overseeing the flow of millions of dollars to a law firm that he’s now going to work for.

Scott spoke to reporters after Tuesday’s Florida Cabinet meeting.

“We have people that come to work for the state and they work hard,” Scott told reporters. “And (then) they find opportunities. That’s just part of the process.”

Jon Steverson, secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection, quit last Friday, reportedly for a job at the Foley & Lardner law firm, according to a Scott spokesman. The firm still has not publicly confirmed the hire.

Foley & Lardner also is one of the firms representing the state in a nearly two-decades-old court fight with Georgia over river water use.

The dispute centers around upstream water use from the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers in Georgia. They meet at the Florida border to form the Apalachicola River, which empties into the Apalachicola Bay.

Steverson’s department is asking the Legislature for $13 million more to pay expected legal bills from the still-unresolved case. A joint committee is scheduled to take up the request later Tuesday.

But House Speaker Richard Corcoran on Monday night said his chamber won’t entertain the request without a detailed audit of how DEP officials spent legal money already appropriated.

The governor said he’s “appreciative of the people that are willing to come work with me … I know they work really hard. But when they have opportunities, they ought to go pursue them.”

Scott also defended the costs of the litigation, now approaching $100 million.

As The Associated Press has explained: “Florida blames rapid growth in metropolitan Atlanta and agriculture in south Georgia for causing low river flows that have imperiled fisheries dependent on fresh water entering the area. Georgia has argued that Florida didn’t prove its water use is to blame for the low flows and says a cap will damage the state’s economy.”

“The flow of water into our state is very important,” Scott said. “Now, we have to do everything we can to keep the cost of that issue as low as we can. But it’s important to make sure Florida gets the water it deserves.”

Added Scott on Steverson: “It’s hard to be an agency head. Sometimes the media isn’t very nice to them. One thing that surprises a lot of them is how much media attention they get.”

Richard Corcoran: House won’t OK legal money for DEP

House Speaker Richard Corcoran late Monday said his chamber won’t agree to hand over any more money for the Department of Environmental Protection to pay its legal bills until the agency gives a full accounting of what’s already been spent.

Corcoran was reacting to the DEP’s request to the Joint Legislative Budget Commission for an additional $13 million to pay outside legal counsel in an ongoing court fight between Georgia and Florida over water use. (Earlier story here.)

The commission is scheduled to take up the request Tuesday.

Coincidentally, DEP Secretary Jon Steverson resigned Friday and is going to work for one of the law firms, Foley & Lardner, that’s representing the state in the matter. Steverson is an attorney.

“We won’t approve the money until an audit is done and we will pass legislation barring the revolving door from agency head to lobbyist/lawyer,” Corcoran said in a statement.

The Joint Legislative Budget Commission acts as a joint committee of the Legislature, charged with reviewing and approving the equivalent of mid-course corrections to the current year’s state spending plan.

It’s made up of seven members of the state House and seven of the Senate. Of those House members, five belong to the House’s controlling Republican caucus, including commission co-chair Carlos Trujillo, who also heads the House Appropriations committee.

Earlier Monday, Trujillo told FloridaPolitics.com he would “need additional information before we can even consider approval,” noting the state will have dedicated over $100 million to legal and related fees in the water use case if the latest dollars are OK’d.

The nearly two-decade dispute centers around upstream water use from the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers in Georgia. They meet at the Florida border to form the Apalachicola River, which empties into the Apalachicola Bay.

river

“Water wars” could cost the state another $13M in legal fees

The state’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has busted its outside legal expenses budget over the ongoing ‘water war’ between Georgia and Florida, legislative records show.

It’s asking for an additional $13 million from the Joint Legislative Budget Commission, which meets Tuesday — and even that may not be enough.

Gov. Rick Scott‘s office approved the request to the commission, made up of House and Senate members, for “litigation costs.”

“This increase is necessary to meet projected expenditures for outside counsel as it relates to the ongoing litigation in the Florida v. Georgia Supreme Court case for equitable apportionment of the waters of the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin,” the request says.

If the extra money is approved, the state will have dedicated over $100 million to legal and related fees in the water use case, said state Rep. Carlos Trujillo, the Miami-Dade Republican who co-chairs the commission.

“I’m very concerned about the costs of this litigation and we need additional information before we can even consider approval,” added Trujillo, the House Appropriations chair. “It’s been somewhat of a surprise.”

Commission co-chair Jack Latvala, the Senate Appropriations chair, was not immediately available.

The request was submitted before DEP Secretary Jon Steverson suddenly resigned his post on Friday, giving no reason in his resignation letter to Scott, to whom he reported. His official departure date is Feb. 3.

A spokeswoman for Scott Monday evening said there was “no connection” between the escalating legal costs and Steverson’s resignation.

His leaving “will be discussed at tomorrow’s Cabinet meeting, but since it was not properly noticed, no action is scheduled to be taken,” Scott spokeswoman Taryn Fenske said in an email.

Scott spokesman McKinley Lewis told the Tampa Bay Times that Steverson was going to work for the lobbying team at the Foley & Lardner law firm, one of four firms representing the state in the water use case. The law firm did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The legal dispute focuses on water use from a watershed in western Georgia, eastern Alabama and the Florida Panhandle.

The Chattahoochee and Flint rivers flow through Georgia and meet at the Florida border to form the Apalachicola River, which flows into the Apalachicola Bay.

Florida blames rapid growth in metropolitan Atlanta and agriculture in south Georgia for causing low river flows that have imperiled fisheries dependent on fresh water entering the area. Georgia has argued that Florida didn’t prove its water use is to blame for the low flows and says a cap will damage the state’s economy.

Alabama isn’t directly involved in this case but has sided with Florida, encouraging a cap on Georgia’s use.

A federal court official recently ordered attorneys for Florida and Georgia to try again to settle the yearslong disagreement.

According to budget documents, the DEP was given $18.6 million in the 2016-17 budget year to pay for legal expenses.

“The department utilized $2.4 million in base funding and processed a budget amendment to increase base funding by $3.0 million for litigation expenses, for a total of $23.9 million in available funding,” its request explains.

“The DEP carried over $11.7 million in expenditures from Fiscal Year 2015-16, has $7.1 million in actual billings for July and August of 2016, and the projected expenses from September 2016 through June 2017 are $22.2 million, for a total of $41.1 million in projected costs,” it says. “The estimated additional need in excess of current appropriations is $17.1 million.”

The added $13 million would be made of $9 million from the state’s Internal Improvement Trust Fund and another $4 million from the Permit Fee Trust Fund, according to the request.

“The remaining projected deficit is $4.1 million,” it says.

Background from The Associated Press, reprinted with permission.

It’s official: Jim Boxold resigns as state Transportation secretary

Gov. Rick Scott Monday officially announced the resignation of state Transportation Secretary Jim Boxold after FloridaPolitics.com broke the story of his departure last Friday night.

Boxold’s resignation is effective Feb. 3, the governor said in a statement. Rachel Cone, who is now Assistant Secretary for Finance and Administration, will serve as interim secretary.

Later Monday, the governmental affairs firm Capital City Consulting also confirmed he was joining the team.

“Jim Boxold has done a great job leading FDOT and I want to thank him for his hard work as we have continued to make critical investments in Florida’s transportation infrastructure,” Scott said.

“Under his leadership, Florida has been a leader in transportation and made great improvements in our seaports, bridges and airports,” he added. “His dedication to our state has helped ensure we have a world-class transportation system that supports continued economic growth and job creation. I am truly proud of all the good work Jim has done and wish him the best in his future endeavors.”

FloridaPolitics.com reported on Friday that, according to well-placed sources, Boxold had accepted an offer to join the governmental affairs firm Capital City Consulting. (The governor’s statement did not mention where Boxold was going.)

Boxold, a former DOT chief of staff, was appointed to lead the agency in December 2014 to succeed Ananth Prasad.

He’s one of two high-profile departures from the Scott administration in recent days: DEP Secretary Jon Steverson turned in his resignation on Friday.

Prior to his time at the DOT, Boxold served a decade as Director of Cabinet Affairs for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs, now led by Adam Putnam.

Before that, Boxold was Deputy Director of Cabinet Affairs for Gov. Jeb Bush. He also served as legislative affairs director for U.S. Rep. Porter J. Goss in 1995-2001.

“Jim has served the State of Florida with distinction and has overseen major seaport expansions, significant upgrades to our interstates and roadways, and the infusion of new technologies that has forever changed traditional transportation models,” said Ron LaFace, partner at Capital City Consulting. “We are excited and honored that Jim will bring his knowledge and experience to assist Capital City Consulting’s clients.”

Added Nick Iarossi, partner at Capital City Consulting: “Jim is one of the most intelligent and respected members in state government. We expect his experience at the Department of Transportation and the Department of Agriculture will help us better serve our clients and lead to strong growth areas for the firm.”

Boxold said he “really enjoyed my time in state government and most recently being part of Governor Scott’s hard working team, (but) I now look forward to using my experience to help Capital City Consulting provide unmatched service and results for its clients.”

A graduate of The George Washington University in 1995, he and his family live in Tallahassee.

Jim Boxold to step down as DOT head for lobbying job

In the second of two surprise departures from the Gov. Rick Scott administration, the secretary of the state’s Department of Transportation is expected to step down to pursue a career in the private sector.

Jim Boxold, who was appointed in December 2014 to succeed Ananth Prasad, is leaving to join the governmental affairs firm Capital City Consulting, multiple sources have confirmed.

An announcement about Boxold’s joining the firm could come as soon as Monday.

Boxold is the second department head to leave the Scott Administration this month; DEP Secretary Jon Steverson turned in his resignation on Friday.

The Governor’s Office late Friday night said Boxold had not submitted a letter of resignation, but sources who have spoken to Boxold and those inside CCC say the former DOT chief of staff – who was elevated to lead the agency – is headed to the Adams Street firm.

Capital City Consulting is considered one of the “Big 4” lobbying firms, earning more than $1 million per quarter in compensation to represent clients before the Legislature.

The firm was established in 2003 by Nick IarossiRon LaFace, and Gerald Wester.

Prior to his time at FDOT, Boxold served a decade as Director of Cabinet Affairs for the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs.

Before that, he was Deputy Director of Cabinet Affairs for Gov. Jeb Bush. He also served as legislative affairs director for U.S. Rep. Porter J. Goss in 1995-2001.

Jon Steverson resigns as DEP secretary

Jon Steverson, the Secretary of the state’s Department of Environmental Protection under Gov. Rick Scott, has resigned.

His departure was confirmed Friday night by McKinley Lewis, Scott’s deputy communications director, who provided a copy of the resignation letter.

Steverson is set to join the legal-lobbying firm Foley & Lardner, sources tell FloridaPolitics.com. Herschel Vineyard, who also served as a DEP Secretary, is a part of Foley’s governmental relations team.

Steverson, whose last day will be Feb. 3, did not mention reasons for his leaving in the letter.

“I want to thank Jon Steverson for his hard work,” Scott said in a statement. “Jon has devoted his career to protecting Florida’s pristine environment and I am proud of the tremendous and historic strides we have made toward safeguarding Florida’s natural resources during his time at DEP.

“Under his leadership, we have invested in Florida’s natural lands and completed projects which will ensure protection of our springs, restoration of the Everglades and the continued enhancement of our award-winning state parks for years to come.”

Lewis said the Governor’s Office will have “further announcements on this next week.”

Among the leading candidates to replace Steverson are Karl Rasmussen, a Deputy Chief of Staff in the Governor’s Office, and Ryan Matthews, the Deputy Secretary of Regulatory Programs at DEP.

Steverson raised hackles for, among other things, suggesting that the state allow timber harvesting and cattle grazing to help state parks boost their income.

More recently, his department did not immediately notify the public that a huge sinkhole formed under a fertilizer plant and sent contaminated water and fertilizer into Florida’s main drinking water aquifer.

He began as interim DEP Secretary in December 2014. The Florida Senate declined to confirm him and other agency heads in 2015, though he finally won confirmation January of last year.

Steverson was previously executive director of the Northwest Florida Water Management District. Before that, he was DEP’s Special Counsel on Policy and Legislative Affairs and an acting Deputy Secretary for Water Policy and Ecosystem Restoration, according to his bio.

Steverson also served in the Executive Office of the Governor in 2005-09 in several positions, including Environmental Policy Coordinator.

Material from The Associated Press was used in this post.

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