Rick Scott unveils “Florida First” budget at Jax sign shop

Rick Scott

The name of the south Jacksonville sign shop where Florida Governor Rick Scott unveiled his “Florida First” budget on Monday, Harbinger Signs (a business in Jacksonville for 53 years now), had a Thomas Pynchon quality.

Expected going in, as a “harbinger” of the Monday event: an announcement that Florida would have a record $29.8 billion of general revenue available next year – including $1.3 billion in new revenue. Thus, Scott planned to cut $1 billion in taxes and commit a quarter billion dollars to economic incentives for Enterprise Florida projects.

The budget, meanwhile, is $79.3 billion, up one percent from the current $78.4 billion budget; the proposed General Revenue budget: $29.3 billion.

At an unveiling with some of the most powerful GOP pols in NE Florida, including Mayor Lenny Curry, State Representative Lake Ray (and Clay Yarborough, running to replace the termed-out Ray), and Jacksonville City Councilmen Bill Gulliford, Aaron Bowman, and Matt Schellenberg, Jacksonville Republicans were presenting a united front.

Ray, the executive director of the First Coast Manufacturers Association, noted before the Governor spoke that manufacturing jobs are so important because the economic impact of one “is like three jobs.” As well, Ray spotlighted the “effort [to make permanent] a sales tax exemption on manufacturing equipment.”

Curry, meanwhile, hit themes that are becoming increasingly familiar for those who cover his joint events with Governor Scott, observing that the Governor’s visit means that Jacksonville is doing “business-friendly” things, before launching into an argument for Enterprise Florida as “being laser-focused” on using “tools and the toolbox” for recruitment, before introducing the man that he called “the hardest working Governor in the United States.”

Scott, in his opening remarks, gave props to Lake Ray, crediting him with being indispensable to port strategy, and recognized the work of Council and the Mayor, before proceeding into his messaging.

Job creation: 36,600 in one month; Florida is “on a roll,” with “the most jobs created in one month in a decade,” with a “seven year low in the unemployment rate.”

The question, however: “how do we diversify the economy?”

For Scott, it’s about small businesses, and adding jobs in that sector.

As well, he noted that the new budget has “$5.3 billion for a rainy day fund,” as well as a “billion dollars to grow more jobs” via “tax reductions.”

To accomplish goals, Governor Scott noted that he was interested in eliminating the income tax on manufacturers and retailers, while permanently eliminating the sales tax on manufacturing equipment, and cutting the tax on commercial leases.

Central to the strategy, though: winning economic development projects.

“If we don’t have money to invest, we’re not going to win,” saying that the proposed $250 million in the fund is a “way to compete” and “diversify our economy,” like Texas, which has $285 million earmarked for such recruitment.

The goal: to make Florida’s economy less exposed to the boom/bust cycles of construction and tourism as primary drivers.

Education, another priority, will see “historic funding” for K-12 and colleges, as well as technical schools.

Funding priorities, Scott said, will be results-based, directing money to schools that do the best jobs.

As well, “this is the first budget with over a billion dollars for the developmentally disabled,” which will allows “everyone on the critical wait list” to get the help they need.

During the press gaggle, Scott addressed hospitals, including the struggling safety net hospitals, noting that the industry enjoys “record profits,” and “we’ve got to make sure as taxpayers that we spend money well,” an indication that he hasn’t moved from his opposition to Medicaid Expansion.

“Every hospital should post its prices,” said Scott, to avoid “price gouging.”

And, for those who might have worried, “we are not raising the millage rate” to increase educational funding, even as performance funding will raise the per-capita allocation for students.

As well, he voiced support for school choice, especially where there are “poor-performing public schools.”

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


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