Scott’s $1 billion tax breaks, economic incentive cash become first casualties of budget talks

House budget chief Richard Corcoran and Senate counterpart Tom Lee had bad news for Gov. Rick Scott

House budget chief Richard Corcoran and Senate counterpart Tom Lee had bad news for Gov. Rick Scott

Gov. Rick Scott’s signature $1 billion tax break package was the first casualty of budget negotiations between House and Senate leaders Friday — with the robust plan scaled back to $400 million.

Also jettisoned by legislative deal-makers, a $250 million pool of economic incentive money hotly sought by the Republican governor.

“He had a billion dollars over two years,” House budget chief Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, said of the governor’s plan, which Scott has been touting for weeks. “That was his campaign promise.”

But Corcoran quickly pointed out that state economists last month downsized revenue forecasts by $400 million — a shift which he said basically made Scott’s business-oriented tax cut proposal unworkable.

“You have to be conscious of what that does to your out years,” Corcoran said, adding, “The fact that we got as close as we did to his campaign promise, given the reality of the shortfall, is amazing.”

Although no details on the how the Legislature’s tax breaks will be doled out, only half the $400 million is considered a permanent tax cut, with the remainder a one-year reduction.

Corcoran’s Senate counterpart, Tom Lee, R-Brandon, agreed that Scott’s $1 billion plan couldn’t fly.

“Those promises were made a long time ago, and the facts on the ground have changed,” Lee said.

As recently as last week, Scott insisted there was “plenty of money” in the roughly $80 billion budget proposal. Groundrules for Scott’s $250 million economic incentive package also were approved by the House and have remained generally supported by the Senate.

But that looks out the window now. Corcoran said the “very, very conservative House” wasn’t willing to endorse the concept of having a robust amount of incentive money to dangle before companies looking to move to Florida.

Corcoran was among Republican House members who voted against the economic incentive blueprint last week.

Scott’s office Friday night seemed to hold out some hope that the early budget decisions would change. Lee and Corcoran’s budget huddle was the first of several days of negotiations between the House and Senate.

Scott’s likely to continue lobbying to preserve more of his legislative package — but it’s a bad start for the governor.

 

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