Gov. Rick Scott met with Lee County community and business leaders, holding the first in a series of round table discussions across the state meant to rally support for Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida funding.
“Right now, I’m going to fight every day to make sure we keep this funding because it’s good for your family,” said the Naples Republican. “It’s an investment. We make an investment and we get a return.”
Scott has requested $85 million for economic incentives for Enterprise Florida, making it one of his top priorities going into the 2017 Legislative Session. But the governor faces a big battle for the incentive dollars, with House Speaker Richard Corcoran saying the House budget will not include incentives. He’s been staunchly opposed to economic incentives, even equating them to corporate welfare.
And last week, the House took the first steps to not just defunding economic incentives, but to eliminate Enterprise Florida. The House Careers and Competition Subcommittee voted 10-5 to approve a committee bill to kill Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, as well as a slew of other incentive programs.
Rep. Dane Eagle, a Cape Coral Republican and the House Majority Whip, was among those who voted in favor of the proposal. Eagle was appointed to the committee as an ex officio member, and is a member of the full House Commerce Committee.
Scott blasted Eagle for his vote, saying he was “very disappointed” and couldn’t imagine why he would vote to do end Enterprise Florida or Visit Florida. The Lee County event was held in Eagle’s district. Eagle said Monday afternoon he respects the governor, and said the two have a difference of opinion on the issue. Eagle said he doesn’t believe “in taking from ‘Company A’ to give to ‘Company B.'”
“Governor Scott can’t explain why the system should be rigged against hardworking taxpayers and small business owners of Florida,” said Andres Malave, a spokesman for Americans for Prosperity-Florida, in a statement. “Instead of advocating for a more competitive regulatory business climate, he is wrongly convinced that taking money from taxpayers to redistribute wealth for well-connected targeted special interests will somehow produce a different result we’ve seen from the failures Enterprise Florida has produced.”
Scott encouraged business leaders to call their representatives and senators “and let them know the importance of job creation, of Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida.” Cissy Proctor, the head of the Department of Economic Opportunity, echoed that request.
“We’re working very hard up in Tallahassee and all across the state to make sure that we get the word out about how important it is that Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida receive healthy funding this year so we can continue to invest in the state,” she said. “What we’re talking about is preserving the investment we already have. We want to continue those investments to make sure we can bring more companies, more jobs and have a healthy economy in Florida rather than having to go around the state and fight for the investments we’ve already made.”
Scott is scheduled to host two more round table events in Tampa and Flagler Beach today, before continuing the tour on Tuesday in Panama City.