Florida Gov. and legislative leaders work out budget deal

Credit DXR via wikimedia commons
Credit DXR via wikimedia commons
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03 June, 2017

Gov. Rick Scott and state lawmakers have agreed to a broad deal settling a long list of disagreements over the state budget, including more money for schools and funding for the governor's top priorities of economic development and tourism marketing.

Scott will call lawmakers back to Tallahassee in a special session, tentatively set for next week, June 7-9.

Critics say the proposed education funding ramps up spending on charter schools at the expense of public schools.

In return, Scott is expected to sign a controversial education bill, HB 7069, that is Corcoran's top priority.

As recently as an hour before the announcement, key lawmakers were unaware of the details of the deal, which restores some priorities of Scott and Senate President Joe Negron that didn't make it through the regular session. The call, issued by Scott on Friday morning, calls on lawmakers to tackle issues relating to funding for public education, Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida.

Legislative leaders said they may add medical-marijuana legislation to the special session agenda, if they can resolve differences over the number of dispensaries that would be allowed to distribute the drugs. House Republicans were adamant that the money could not be used on incentives to lure new businesses to the region.

Along with rejecting Scotts request for business-incentive money, the budget would reduce the agencys funding for general operations from $23.5 million in the current year.

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Corcoran had resisted funding economic incentives, deriding them as "corporate welfare". The budget passed by the Legislature would give VISIT FLORIDA $25 million, which is $51 million less than what it received in this year's budget. The education bill, which is opposed by groups such as the Florida School Boards Association and the Florida Association of District School Superintendents, includes money for items such as a charter-school expansion and pay bonuses for teachers and principals.

Negron said next week lawmakers will vote on a proposal to keep Visit Florida's funding at $76 million.

Corcoran also sought to slash funding for Enterprise Florida's operating budget from $23.5 million to $16 million and eliminate 21 corporate incentive programs.

"I think we have the outlines for a tremendous session, a productive session and one that will do great things for the state of Florida", said Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

Scott, who chairs the Enterprise Florida board, has expressed anger with the funding package but hasnt indicated if hell sign the $82.4 billion budget before a June 15 deadline or detailed the extent of potential vetoes.

The deal was forged through private conversations over the last few weeks after the regular session ended in early May.

"The whole focus will be how to get more jobs in the state", Scott said. Otherwise, regulation would be left up to the Florida Department of Health. The bill, HB 7069, hasn't yet been sent to Scott's desk.


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