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Politics / Issues

With No New Dollars In the Budget Plan Lawmakers Say It’s Time For Enterprise To get Creative

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Credit AP

Despite a request from Gov. Rick Scott for $250 million  this year, there’s not much money showing up in the Enterprise Florida Budget.

The plan so far includes an operating budget for the state’s economic development agency, but House budget chairman Richard Corcoran says there won't be much more.

"The Enterprise Fund is at Zero," Corcoran says—meaning the agency will get no new dollars to attract businesses to the state.

Senate budget committee chair Tom Lee, R-Brandon, says after officials received news they’d be getting less revenue than estimators had originally predicted, state leaders realized they’d have to make compromises.

“We both came off the floor in very different places in terms of priorities," Lee says. "We worked through those against the clock, it became pretty clear that if we were going to get out of here in time and get back home that some things had to give and that just didn’t seem to be a place where we didn’t have the levels of support necessary to stay overtime and continue to fight. So ultimately we worked something out as an interplay between the economic development package and the tax package and we’re off and running.”

The decision not to fund most of Enterprise Florida’s incentive programs is a move that surprised some like Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater. He chairs the Senate Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development appropriations committee, which oversees the Enterprise Florida portion of the budget.

“You know I was here when Enterprise Florida started back in the late 90's when it took over for the department of commerce. I cannot possibly anticipate that we’re not going to have some sort of economic development program that are trying to get businesses to relocate. It didn’t have to be $250 million, but there’s a big difference between $250 million and zero,” Latvala says.

Latvala says the agency’s big ask might have impacted the decision to zero out the Enterprise budget.

Meanwhile, Enterprise officials who have been raising concerns about running out of money throughout the process, have sent out a letter warning officials that without funds to attract new business, the state stands to lose more than 50,000 potential jobs from 277 projects the agency is currently working to attract to the state. But Latvala points out, the group does have money in its escrow account, which is used to pay businesses Enterprise has attracted to the state once they meet certain job growth bench marks.

“I really think it’s time for creative thinking for how we get out of this mess,” Latvala says.

Some have asked whether the move could attract the governor’s veto pen after lawmakers pass the budget. And Corcoran says its could, but he adds that’s part of the process.

“He’s used the veto pen strongly in the past. He could in all likelihood do it again. He’s the executive branch we’re the legislature. We’re going to pass a budget and do what we think is right for the people of Florida, he’s going use his executive power to do what he thinks is best for the state of Florida and that’s the way it works,” Corcoran says.

Meanwhile the chairs of the Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development appropriations committees have a few more issues to work out—like funding for the state’s tourism arm, visit Florida. The chairs said they expected any remaining issues to get “bumped” to budget chairs Corcoran and Lee by the end of the day Monday.

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