Gov. Rick Scott continued to make the pitch for economic incentives, telling Florida business leaders to call their House members to encourage them to support his request for millions of dollars for Enterprise Florida.
“Here’s my ask: This, in my opinion, is the most important thing we can do for the state,” he said. “Talk to all of your employees. Let them know the importance of these things. Talk to your House members. Session starts in just a month. Let them know (you support this).”
The Naples Republican made his appeal during the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors meeting Thursday morning. The meeting comes just days after Scott officially unveiled his fiscal 2017-18 budget, which included $85 million for economic incentives.
“The way I think about it is if you care about the most disadvantaged family in the state, then fully fund EFI,” said Scott. “People forget, six years ago all across our state homes were being foreclosed on, cars were being repossessed, people were moving out of our state because they couldn’t get a jobs. Now we have thousands of people moving here a year. We are the best melting pot in the world. And I’m going to fight every day to make sure when I finish, this is the No. 1 place for jobs.”
But to say Scott faces a tough sell in the Florida House, might be an understatement. House Speaker Richard Corcoran is staunchly opposed to incentives, taking the position they are little more than “corporate welfare.”
And the Land O’Lakes Republican isn’t budging from that position, saying Tuesday there would be “no (economic) incentives” in his chamber’s proposed 2017-18 budget.
That position, Scott told Enterprise Board members Thursday, sends a message to businesses and site selectors looking to relocate corporate or regional headquarters. A few years ago, Scott said the state was in the middle of conversations with GE when the state Legislature decided to cut funding for incentives. Those conversations, Scott said, ended shortly thereafter.
“We’re not going to get the leads. You’re not going to do business with someone with no money,” said Scott. “If the legislature says they don’t want to do deals, then if you’re a site selector you don’t want to waste your time. We’re not the only state out there trying to get them.”
Enterprise Florida board members expressed frustration with Corcoran’s position Thursday, calling him the “elephant in the room.
It’s unlikely this is the only time business leaders will hear Scott’s appeal for help this week. The board meeting came just hours before the start of Scott’s 2017 “Jobs Summit.”
The two-day event is expected to be similar to Scott’s successful 2016 Degrees to Jobs Summit. While that focused largely on preparing Florida’s students for the workforce, the 2017 event appears to focus on economic development development.