Transformed from fiscal foes to budget buddies, Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land-O’Lakes, stopped in Palm Beach County today to highlight the $83 billion budget lawmakers approved last week after months of disagreement.
Scott also saluted President Donald Trump as a “partner” in efforts to accelerate repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers plans to spend $930 million in federal money on dike projects through 2025. Scott hopes to get the repairs done by 2022. Florida’s 2017-18 budget includes $50 million toward dike repairs, with Scott expressing hope the state will be reimbursed by the federal government.
“Under President Obama I kept asking for help with the dike and we didn’t get anywhere,” Scott told reporters at the South Florida Water Management District headquarters in unincorporated West Palm Beach. “President Trump has committed to being a partner. He’s going to make sure we get that dike finished. My goal is to get the dike finished by 2022.”
Asked how Florida will get reimbursed, Scott said, “We’re still working through how that would happen.”
Scott said Florida has made similar arrangements with the Corps for a Port of Miami dredging and a project in Jacksonville.
“We have to take care of our state. This is part of our state. It might be a federal project, but the dike’s important to everybody, especially in this part of the state,” Scott said.
Scott said part-time Palm Beach resident Trump understands the importance of Lake Okeechobee.
“I sat down with President Trump and I let him know the importance of the dike and he had some knowledge of the dike because he’s been down here in Palm Beach,” Scott said. “And so he is committed to making sure we get that done. Now, every dollar adds to, accelerates it. My goal is to get it done by 2022. In his case, he’s going to work through Congress getting it done. I’m going to continue to work through the speaker and the Senate to have funding every year to get this done.”
Scott and Corcoran are visiting five Florida cities today to promote the budget. Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, couldn’t make the tour because he and other Senate Republicans are attending a previously scheduled fundraising retreat in California.
Corcoran slammed business incentives favored by Scott as “corporate welfare,” but ended up agreeing to $85 million in incentive money after the program was changed to benefit public projects rather than specific private businesses. Corcoran also relented on tourist-promotion money after saying he was satisfied that additional accountability safeguards were added in.
Many Tallahassee insiders speculate that Corcoran agreed to some of Scott’s spending priorities in exchange for the governor’s agreement to sign a Corcoran-backed education bill, HB 7069, that promotes charter schools. Both Corcoran and Scott said no deal was struck. Scott said he is still “reviewing” the education bill before deciding whether to sign or veto it.