The Republican-controlled Florida Legislature approved an $83 billion budget on Monday night that ignores some of Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s top priorities — and provides Democrats some ammunition if Scott makes an expected challenge of Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson next year.
Scott wanted $100 million for the Visit Florida tourist marketing program; legislators approved $25 million. The governor sought $85 million for the Enterprise Florida business-incentive program; lawmakers approved nothing. And lawmakers ignored Scott’s request for $200 million for repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee.
Scott also got a smaller package of tax cuts than he wanted — about $180 million instead of $600 million.
The smackdown of Scott by his own party has fueled speculation he might become the first governor since Lawton Chiles in 1992 to veto an entire budget.
If Scott ends up challenging Nelson, voters in the fall of 2018 are unlikely to remember or care about the details of this year’s budget deliberations. But in opposing the tourism and business incentive programs, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, and other Republicans repeatedly accused Scott of favoring “corporate welfare” — a line of attack Democrats are likely to pursue against Scott if he runs next year.
Corcoran last fall even borrowed a line from Bernie Sanders in deriding Scott’s beloved Enterprise Florida: “The government engaging in social engineering to pick winners and losers that benefit the 1 percent is a bad deal for Florida taxpayers. There will not be any corporate welfare in the House budget.”
State Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Inverness, who became the Republican Party of Florida chairman in 2015 by defeating Scott’s preferred candidate, said last week that Scott is misreading voters by touring the state to promote the business incentives.
“I really, truly think that the governor is underestimating how many people do not like corporate welfare,” Ingoglia said.
While Scott last week toured 10 cities to urge voters to lobby the legislature for the incentive programs, Ingoglia was dismissive.
“That message, the proponents of Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida have been trying to get out for the better part of four months, and I personally have seen very little in the way of emails and communications advocating for Visit Florida or, more particularly, Enterprise Florida,” Ingoglia said.