House Speaker Richard Corcoran got his bills, and he got enough Democrats to build a veto-proof majority. The lower chamber has approved legislation to scale back Visit Florida and eliminate Enterprise Florida.
The House and Senate have queued up, and passed, some of their highest profile bills in the opening week of this year’s session. In the House, that means a measure pruning Visit Florida’s budget and placing significant new restrictions on the agencies spending. It also means a bill outright eliminating Enterprise Florida and a raft of other business incentive programs.
“We know that the vast majority of the applicants that begin the process of receiving these incentives never complete them,” Rep. Paul Renner (R-Palm Coast) says. “State differently those that do represent a tiny small fraction—what was promised at the press conference was not delivered.”
Renner is sponsoring both measures. But the prime mover behind the bills is House Speaker Richard Corcoran. The Land O’ Lakes Republican pulled the plug on Enterprise Florida funding last year, and he’s been lining up these votes since at least December, when he went after Visit Florida for refusing to disclose details of a contract with the rapper Pitbull.
But his crusade is raising the ire of Governor Rick Scott.
“It's easy to throw out catch phrases like ‘picking winners and losers’ and ‘corporate welfare,’” Scott said during his state of the state address. “By the way, I don't like either of those things—I doubt anybody in this chamber does.”
“But that's not what we are doing,” the governor went on, “We are competing with 49 other states and hundreds of countries for jobs.”
According to Politco Florida, Corcoran met with Democrats days ahead of the vote hoping to pull enough members to his side for a veto-proof majority. Most Democrats rebuffed the Speaker, but Friday, Orlando Democratic Representative Carlos Guillermo Smith spoke for the handful on the left who joined the Republican majority.
“Much of these corporate incentives are essentially holding the state ransom for tax payer money,” Smith says. “And when we offer them these incentive money back, it’s like we’re paying ransom money back to these hostage takers.”
Opposition in the Senate and the Governor’s mansion remains, but Corcoran’s measure passed—and it passed strongly. Even if the speaker’s priority eventually falters, his campaign to rein in state agency spending could lay the ground work for an entirely different campaign in 2018.