Courtesy of The Orlando Sentinel
Published June 4, 2017
TALLAHASSEE – Gov. Rick Scott on Friday sealed a grand
bargain with legislative leaders that will beef up funding for public
education, tourism marketing and economic development, areas that bedeviled
lawmakers during the regular session.
The deal could cool off – at least for now – a civil war among Florida’s
Lawmakers will return to the Capitol next week for a three-day special
session to add $215 million for PreK-12 schools, as well as more money for
Visit Florida and a new incentive program for businesses — all top
priorities for Scott.
The special session is
scheduled to start Wednesday and end Friday.
In return, the governor is expected to sign a wide-ranging
bill allocating hundreds of millions of dollars to charter
schools, a key priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran,
but opposed by many traditional school leaders.
As part of the agreement, Scott signed the $82.4 billion
budget into law but not before vetoing $410 million in local
projects. Lawmakers will use that money to plump up the
Scott and Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, have been feuding all
year over funding for tourism promotion and business
incentives. Scott bashed Corcoran and House Republicans for
“turning their backs on Florida families” and “not caring
about jobs” after they voted to cut tourism marketing funds
and business incentives, which Corcoran called “corporate
Gov. Rick Scott goes to Lake Mary to make a jobs
announcement, on Wednesday, October 29, 2014. Mitsubishi Hitachi
Power Systems announced that their North American headquarters will
be in Lake Mary, and will add 100 new jobs.
But the pair congratulated each other at a news
conference in Miami announcing the deal.
“I appreciate the fact that people fight for what they believe in,” Scott
said. “I feel good about the conversations that we’ve had.’’
Democrats blasted the deal as a behind-the-scenes giveaway to charter
schools that wastes time and money on a special session.
“That politicians in positions of leadership are willing to sell out our
public schools by approving the creation of a $140 million slush fund for
private charter school operators in exchange for an $85 million slush fund
for corporate welfare is the epitome of everything that people despise about
politics,” House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz of Tampa said.
Scores of projects for universities across the state were among those vetoed
by Scott, with the University of Central Florida losing $2 million for the
downtown campus, $3.9 million for the Dr. Phillips Center for Performing
Arts and $3.5 million for the Istation business program.
The biggest items to draw Scott’s veto pen were $37.4 million in payouts to
homeowners who lost citrus trees due to state attempts to eradicate the
citrus canker disease, a $15 million plan to put an overpass on Interstate
75 north of Wesley Chapel in Pasco County and a $14 million school uniforms
During the special session, lawmakers will put an extra $215 million into
schools on top of the original $24 billion budget, increasing the amount of
funding by $125 per student over the current year, instead of just $25 in
the original budget.
Lawmakers will also put $76 million into Visit Florida, the state’s tourism
marketing agency, maintaining its current year funding. The original budget
passed by lawmakers last month included $25 million for the group.
A new program will also set aside $85 million to help lure companies, but
the money cannot be used as an incentive for a specific company. Instead, it
will be spent on workforce training as well as infrastructure such as roads.
The program, called the Florida Job Growth Fund, will be part of the
Department of Economic Opportunity. Scott didn’t specify how the program and
the money will be used differently than the state’s existing programs for
job training and infrastructure funding.
“All these [programs] together, if you add them up I think it puts us in a
competitive position to continue to grow jobs in our state,” Scott said.
“It’s just a variety of things in the tool kit to create an environment
where people can get a job.”
Corcoran had wanted to eliminate funding for Visit Florida and Enterprise
Florida, the state agency responsible for incentive deals to entice
companies to add jobs in the state.
But he also pushed heavily for Scott to sign HB 7069, an education bill that
provides $419 million to help charter schools compete against chronically
failing public schools and gives teachers bonuses based on student
The Florida Education Association, the largest teachers’ union in the state,
bashed the deal as unfair to traditional public schools despite the
“Unless the governor vetoes HB 7069, there isn’t enough money to offset the
incredible damage that will hit our public schools,” said FEA president
Joanne McCall. “The 2.7 million students in our traditional public schools
will pay the price so that operators of for-profit charters, that serve a
small fraction of that number of students, can get a financial benefit.”
For his part, Scott said he was still reviewing HB 7069 and it wasn’t a done
deal that he would sign it. Before Friday he had criticized lawmakers for
writing the bill behind closed doors in the final days of the session. Scott
didn’t mention any of those concerns Friday.
Some Republicans also were frustrated the deal couldn’t be reached during
the regular session. Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, who has said he’s
considering running for governor in 2018, has backed Scott’s push for more
economic development funds. He chided the House and Corcoran, who is also
considering a gubernatorial run.
“It's a shame the House wouldn't negotiate during the regular session. Now
we have to spend $60-70k a day on a special session,” Latvala posted on
Since 2000, the Florida Legislature has held more than 20 special sessions
costing the state an average of $51,381 per day, according to state records.
By returning for a special session, lawmakers could tackle other unfinished
business, such as setting up regulations for medical marijuana. Although 71
percent of voters approved medical cannabis last year, legislators failed to
set up a regulatory framework for the new industry.
The official call issued by Scott for a special session will not include
medical marijuana, but Corcoran said negotiations between the House and
Senate are still ongoing, and the issue could still be added to the scope of
the special session.
Scott said the deal will benefit all parties.
“I think everybody wins here. Students in our state win, people that want a
better paying job. Everybody wins,” Scott said.