Budget negotiations have gone the Senate’s way on issues ranging from affordable housing to tourism marketing.
But sacrifices had to be made somewhere, and one of those was a pot of money that has often been decried as a slush fund for the Governor.
It will be funded in 2020’s budget, but at a fraction of allocations in previous years: just $10 million.
Sen. Travis Hutson, an advocate for the funding, told reporters Saturday night that funding VISIT FLORIDA and the Sadowski Trust Fund meant sacrifices needed to be made.
“I think it’s important to the Governor,” Hutson said. “We’re certainly looking at it.”
But ultimately, funding needs elsewhere dictated the lowest single year allocation the fund has had since instituted as one of a number of executive branch-driven incentive programs during the Rick Scott administration.
There was only so much general revenue funding in the silo, Hutson noted.
“They’re certainly working on the contracts they have out there, with outstanding dollars that haven’t been spent,” Hutson said. “They’re doing a great job, being more scrutinized with those dollars.”
However, Hutson noted that budget chairs could push the number up when they review outstanding items bumped to them Monday afternoon. Or, if inclined, the Senate President and House Speaker could do the same.
“In terms of closing out the dollar amounts between me and my partner,” Hutson said, “$10 million’s a good number to start with.”
In July, Gov. Ron DeSantis trumpeted $40 million available in that fund.
The proposals are reviewed by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) and Enterprise Florida, Inc. (EFI). Officials from those agencies then submit project recommendations to the Governor.
The creation of the fund in 2017 was actually a compromise between then-Gov.Scott and a Republican Legislature which had sought to eliminate Enterprise Florida altogether.
DeSantis did not persuade lawmakers to put $85 million into the fund, an amount that Scott, now a U.S. Senator, received for the program in each of his final two years as governor.
The fund was created after a legislative battle about incentives, including a failed request by Scott in 2016 to provide $250 million in economic-development money that could go directly to businesses.
Senate Democratic leader Audrey Gibson Scott’s use of the fund.
The $85 million job growth grant fund, Gibson said, “should be ours to decide what happens in our districts, but we relinquished control to the Governor’s office.”
“When we ask for projects for our districts, there is a high level of accountability,” Gibson continued. “There’s an expectation that by times certain, the expenditures will be made … and if it’s not utilized, it’s returned back.”
DeSantis has a much smaller tool kit to play with.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this post.