I’ll admit I didn’t write a piece in Governor Scott’s defense on Enterprise Florida previously because I found Speaker Richard Corcoran’s threats to eliminate the public-private agency laughable and something that responsible lawmakers would never support. Therefore, I was stunned by the House vote on Friday to overwhelmingly shutter Enterprise Florida and all its related entities raging from brownfield cleanup, to international investment programs, to clean energy development, to incentives for small businesses and sports franchises…I could go on and on.
I don’t often find myself agreeing with Governor Scott but he’s spot on with this and I am deeply disappointed so many Democrats sided with the Speaker on the vote; obviously to win favor for whatever priority legislation they are carrying this year (or perhaps simply to be socially accepted in the clubby House). The Corcoran-pushed initiative to kill Enterprise Florida passed the House 87-28. For many legislators politics seems to have trumped common sense – this is a vote each House member should be forced to explain. While no doubt some excesses and problems have occurred with Enterprise Florida, it has provided far more benefit than harm to our state through the years and in fact has been so successful it has been mimicked by other states. As those other states surpass us in attracting businesses and international investment, perhaps we can use some pages from their playbooks to reform Enterprise Florida – however the idea of killing the entire structure is complete and total madness. Because there is no companion bill in the Senate, the legislation is virtually dead. If Speaker Corcoran keeps on insisting that this is the right thing to do, it will surely lead to a Special Session on the budget as it seems as if President Negron and Senator Latvala are going to be a voice of reason of the remaining 8 weeks of session.
Since the legislation is likely dead, it was also unfortunate so many legislators choose to cast the wrong vote on this bill. Originally Visit Florida was to be included in the bill, but that caused problems so Corcoran and his allies came up with a new separate bill putting limits on (but not killing) Visit Florida. But considering how much Florida relies on tourism and sales tax to generate revenue, how exactly does the House expect to sustain current levels of economic success and revenue without bringing tourists here or attracting new investment in the state? Zika scared people around the globe away from our beaches – while Scott was AWOL on that threat, he was right to rely on Visit Florida to try and mitigate some of the damage with aggressive spending abroad. As I have previously discussed, Visit Florida has been very aggressive in promoting our state in England at professional soccer matches, something that might seem frivolous to many but in reality is a cheap way of keeping up with the Jones’, whom we compete with for tourist dollars from abroad.
Governor Scott’s quote from Friday is spot on and difficult to find fault with-
“Today, politicians in the Florida House passed job killing legislation. We can all agree that VISIT FLORIDA and EFI need to be absolutely accountable and transparent, and both agencies have already taken major steps and implemented reforms to ensure their operations meet our high expectations. However, today’s actions by the House curb the mission of VISIT FLORIDA and bury it in more government bureaucracy – along with decimating Florida’s economic toolkit and the very programs which are directly tied to the creation of thousands of jobs for Florida families.”
“Many politicians who voted for these bills say they are for jobs and tourism. But, I want to be very clear – a vote for these bills was a vote to kill tourism and jobs in Florida. I will continue to fight for Florida jobs and never stop standing up for the families and businesses whose livelihood depend on a strong and growing economy.”
Rick Scott is a lame duck at this point in time while Richard Corcoran is arguably the most powerful man in state government. But Corcoran may have overshot the runway with this move, something that either will prove a shrewd marker for him as he pursues his statewide ambitions, or maybe a cause to marginalize him. Regardless of the political implications, zeroing out Enterprise Florida is about as lousy as public policy gets.