State Of The State Launches 119th Florida Legislative Session
In part of his roughly 30-minute speech, the Governor vigorously defended the state’s economic development and tourism arms. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who sat nearby, wants to strip Enterprise Florida of state money and is backing significant cuts to Visit Florida’s funding.
“Enterprise Florida has been responsible for over 900 projects since I got elected,” said the Governor. “This is how growing an economy works; you build an environment for companies to be successful, and others will join.”
The Governor conceded that mistakes have been made by both agencies, and that changes have been made to avoid them in the future. He also believes that you don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.
“Tourism is one of our state’s top sources of revenue,” Scott reminded the joint session. “And if that declines, we will set a course for either tax increases or cuts in services. Getting rid of Visit Florida and ending advertisements for tourism doesn’t make any sense in the real world.”
Another one of Scott’s requests to lawmakers is for cutting taxes by $618 million to benefit small businesses, students, veterans, teachers and families.
The Governor also spoke at length about last June’s shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, in which 49 people were killed by a lone gunman inspired by ISIS.
“The days I spent in Orlando following the shooting will always be with me,” said Scott. “The hardest thing I ever had to do as governor is to try to find the words to console a family – a parent – who lost their child.”
The Governor is asking the Legislature to provide about $6 million for counterterrorism efforts this year. He added that the Orlando shooting, the fatal shooting at the Ft. Lauderdale airport, two hurricanes, and the Zika virus in 2016 showed the resilience of Floridians.
“I would like to talk to you about Gov. Scott’s State of the State Address; not about what he said, but about what he didn’t,” said state Sen. Oscar Braynon, who delivered the Democratic response.
Braynon said that many of the 1.3 million jobs created during the Scott administration are not as good as the Governor would have you believe.
“The majority of the jobs are great for teenagers, or someone just starting out, but not for someone with skills, with training, with a strong work history or a family to support,” Braynon said. “They’re not the kind of jobs that let you save for that new car; that down payment on a new house, or your kids’ future education. They’re not the kind of jobs that invest in the people.”
Braynon also took Scott to task over his refusal to expand Medicaid to include about a million Floridians under the Affordable Care Act.
“Time and time again, Gov. Scott had the chance to do the right thing,” said Braynon. “To invest in the people by expanding health care coverage in Florida. But he didn’t. He gave the people’s money away in big tax breaks to big companies instead.
“It was a fool’s errand,” said Braynon.
The State of the State address marks the kickoff of the 2017 legislative session – 60 work days ending May 5. Besides tourism marketing and business incentives, Issues before the House and the Senate include gambling, the Everglades and other hot-button topics, on which the chambers appear to be far apart.