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As Rick Scott travels to Paris, lawmakers inch closer to final budget

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Gov. Rick Scott traveled to Paris on Friday aiming to bring back to his home state economic development projects.

But while Scott is away House and Senate budget negotiators have reached a deal to give the governor considerably less money than he wanted for business recruitment.

Sen. Tom Lee and Rep. Richard Corcoran on Saturday agreed to the transportation and economic development portion of the budget. Despite a fervent push from Enterprise Florida officials, the final deal calls for setting aside $32 million for the economic development arm. Scott had sought $85 million. The budget chiefs also agreed to $1.5 million for an Enterprise Florida marketing proposal.

Enterprise Florida officials had warned that without a bigger boost in funding that they would not have enough money to secure new commitments to the state. Scott, whose focus has continually been on job growth since becoming governor, has relied on business incentives to convince companies to relocate or expand.

But Corcoran contended that Scott should be pleased with the entire budget once legislators wrap up their work.

“I think everyone will find some degree of satisfaction,’’ Corcoran said.

The economic development portion of the budget is closely watched since it’s the section where members and lobbyists chase dollars for dozens of hometown projects. Earlier budget talks featured the rare public sight of top House and Senate negotiators trading to back each other’s projects in order to reach a final deal.

But because the projects wind up in the budget, some of which were not inserted until very late in the process, they also draw the potential of a Scott veto.

One of the other key economic development decisions made Saturday was a decision to “zero out” any money for film and entertainment incentives. The film and television industry has been trying for two years now to win additional support after the state’s existing program used all of its funding.

Corcoran, however, said there were members in favor and opposed to film and television incentives. He said that because legislators will back in Tallahassee in five months the fate of the incentive programs can be debated at that time.

Legislators are working all weekend to finish up their work on a budget that will likely hover around $78 billion when finished. On Saturday, Corcoran and Lee put the finishing touches on budget provisions that will be attached to the health care part of the budget. But they still have heavy lifting to do on education and the environmental part of the budget, which includes implementing Amendment 1.

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