Senate budget Chief Tom Lee said on Monday the House is “doing the bidding” of Gov. Rick Scott in pushing to increase funds to Enterprise Florida.
The remarks followed state Sen. Jack Latvala‘s abrupt move to adjourn the Tourism and Economic Development budget conferee meeting early Monday morning just minutes into the meeting and as the House started to discuss a budget offer that would have increased funding at the agency charged with economic development.
Lee said the offer was at odds with an agreed-to decision to have a cash-flow approach to funding Enterprise Florida. Lee said it “has been part of the lexicon as far back as I can remember” and that the concerns raised by Enterprise Florida at this late hour are not the way to resolve the budget and move forward.
Lee said that the cash flow approach would prevent the agency from “hoarding money over there that it can’t spend.”
The House’s move to increase funding came after a phone call from President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Johnson to his board of directors telling them that the agency could not function with that level of funding because it would not be able to provide incentives for businesses to relocate here.
Scott requested $85 million for Enterprise Florida in his proposed budget for 2015-16 but the House and Senate proposed $25 million and $30 million, with $5 million for marketing, respectively. The agency should just shutter its doors with that level of funding, he suggested.
Scott’s budget was built with $2 billion in Medicaid supplemental dollars called Low Income Pool that have not come to fruition. The federal government has given tentative approval to a $1 billion program. The Legislature has agreed to backfill the $1 billion loss in funding with $400 million in recurring general revenue, leaving less money for other areas in the budget.
It also has put the governor’s priorities for this legislative session in jeopardy.
Lee said “doing somebody’s bidding is not a bad thing” and that it just means the House is “ideologically aligned” with the governor’s office on the issue. However, he expressed concern that it became a funding issue “all of a sudden.”