Gov. Rick Scott, reigniting a budget fight with the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature, says the state is nearly out of money to lure companies to Florida.
Scott plans to deliver that stinging message Thursday when he is scheduled to address the board of directors of Enterprise Florida Inc., the state’s economic development agency that is meeting in Ponte Vedra Beach.
Scott and Enterprise Florida officials say the state has only about $9 million left in the main account it uses to offer incentives for companies. Bill Johnson, the president and CEO of Enterprise Florida, said that money will likely be gone in weeks.
“That means well before the end of the fiscal year, EFI will be out of gas and unable to complete any deals,” according to a copy of Scott’s remarks obtained by The Associated Press.
Scott asked the Florida Legislature for $85 million this year, but legislators set aside about half that amount.
Republican legislators contend Enterprise Florida did not need as much money as Scott wants because it has not been spending all the money it’s gotten in recent years. A recent budget document prepared by the Legislature states that since 2009, more than $37 million has been returned to the state because it wasn’t spent.
But Johnson, who said much of the money is already in escrow for previous deals or is connected to pending deals, said the organization is already warning local economic development agencies the state may not be able to help them. Many times the state matches local incentives offered by cities and counties as part of a deal to convince a company to relocate or expand in Florida.
“We’re definitely going to run out of the money,” Johnson said. “This is what I call a reality check.”
Johnson had warned legislators earlier this year that they were not providing enough money for the organization but some of his comments drew the ire of Republican legislators in charge of his budget.
Scott will ask Enterprise Florida board members — which includes other elected officials but also top business executives around the state — to reach out to legislators to ask for more money to help the organization. Scott in his remarks warns that Florida will not be able to match the job creation numbers of states such as Texas if it does not have more money for incentives.
“The number one way to make sure we have a diverse economy that is not just running off of our tourism industry is to win more headquarters relocations to our state — like Hertz — so we have industries who could survive another recession,” said Scott.