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Mitch Perry Report for 6.23.15 — Will Rick Scott veto IMG Academy funding?

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Rick Scott has a week to sign the just passed $78.7 billion Florida budget, and he’s promising taxpayers that “I’m going to watch your money” as he reviews projects with his veto pen.

The Legislature’s last-minute addition of $300 million in pet local projects (including for a USF medical facility moving to downtown Tampa) has caused outrage in some circles as an example of government not operating under the Sunshine, and no particular project has raised more ire than the $2 million allocated for the private, for-profit IMG Academy in Bradenton.

The acid test supposedly for any of these projects is how much economic development they develop. In this case, IMG’s request to the Legislature for funding (originally $7.5 million) for a planned expansion of its campus is that it will add some 2,642 jobs, which definitely sounds pretty significant.

There is some dispute about whether that is the case, however, as noted by PolitiFact’s Joshua Gillin.

But does a private operation deserve that state money?

A year ago I was fortunate enough to spend a couple of hours on the Bradenton campus for a story for Creative Loafing’s annual summer issue. It’s an amazing facility, and has housed some of the best athletes in the country. It’s also super elite.

In addition to annual scholarships that range from $48,000 to $65,000, the facility also offers camps for its eight different sports in one-, three- and five-week durations (and longer in the case of basketball). The costs for the camps range from $1,500 to around $10,000, depending on the length of the program and whether the camper stays in an IMG resident hall. Campers can also take classes in IMG’s Athletic and Personal Development program — “APD” for short — for an extra fee.

So it ain’t hurting. And with so many other social programs on the line as is always the case with the government, well, let’s just say I eagerly await to see what makes it through Scott’s list of priorities when it comes to watching out for the people’s money.

In other news…

While the nation focuses on South Carolina and whether will they do something about their Confederate flag, we’ll kindly remind you that most days of the week you can drive by what supporters hail as the world’s largest Confederate flag – at I-4 and I-75 in east Tampa. Congresswoman Kathy Castor says she hates it, and wishes it would go away.

Castor made those comments at the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County, where she appeared to tout federal funding for REACHUP programs in the county.

They said they would do it, and now they’re doing it. Yesterday three environmental groups in Florida sued the Legislature for failing to fully implement Amendment One, the measure that was supposed to guarantee a certain percentage of state funds would go into land acquisition, but it didn’t turn out that way this spring.

The ACLU has announced that they’re about to invest $80 million in creating a group focused on criminal sentencing reform in a few Southern states — one of whom could be Florida.

Rick Scott is promising to go to Connecticut next to recruit businesses upset about a new tax hike on them, and with Enterprise Florida he’s cut a radio ad hyping that possibility.

Florida House Democrats denounce Florida Power & Light’s new “fracking fee.”

And Rand Paul is now going after Jeb Bush with a pretty weird digital ad about Bush and bailouts.

 

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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