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Backroom Briefing: Corcoran Goes Wawa in Incentives Debate

December 22, 2016 - 6:00pm
Richard Corcoran
Richard Corcoran

House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Gov. Rick Scott have started to exchange some not-so-subtle jabs about the future of the state's business-recruitment and tourism-marketing agencies

Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, has repeatedly expressed opposition to Scott's focus on providing money to Enterprise Florida for business incentives and has questioned the need for tourism-marketer Visit Florida to even exist.

And this week, Corcoran dragged one of the governor's favorite businesses into the mix: Wawa convenience stores.

"We gave incentives to Wawa gas stations to come here," Corcoran said Tuesday while appearing on Preston Scott's show on WFLA radio in Tallahassee. "At the same time, RaceTrac made the exact same investment in the state of Florida. RaceTrac has more gas stations, more investment and more employees and they don't get any money. But their competitor right down the street is getting millions of dollars from the taxpayers. That's a distortion of the free market."

Wawa has opened 100 stores since Scott went to Orlando in July 2012 for the ribbon cutting on the first Wawa in Florida. Meanwhile, the Atlanta-based RaceTrac has opened doors to 78 new stores in Florida since 2012, pushing its number of locations in the state to 201, according to a company spokeswoman.

But it should be noted that while some of the new Wawa store locations have received local tax incentives, and Scott attempted in 2015 to woo Wawa to relocate its headquarters to Florida, a Department of Economic Opportunity spokeswoman said Wednesday, "Wawa has not received and is not scheduled to receive any (state) incentive money."

Still, the comment by Corcoran, who has been making the radio rounds the past two weeks, is part of the early jabs among lawmakers and Scott about Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida. Along with opposing incentive money for Enterprise Florida, Corcoran also maintains tourism is more reflective of the strength of the economy than marketing efforts by Visit Florida.

Some Senate leaders have expressed support for the agencies.

"I don't think we can stick our heads in the sand and just quit advertising and quit doing things to bring people to Florida, bring business to Florida, bring movies to Florida," Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, said last week.

Scott has also taken his own shot at the House.

"Visit Florida and its work to advertise our state supports our tourism industry, which is made up of hundreds of thousands of direct and indirect jobs all across our state," Scott wrote last week in the middle of a letter that called for head of the Visit Florida to step down.

"Anyone who disputes that fact or argues for no longer using Visit Florida's advertising to promote tourism here simply does not understand the business world or the nature of our economy," Scott wrote.

Scott was writing after a controversy about a $1 million Visit Florida contract with the Miami rapper Pitbull.

Corcoran's response to Scott, in a series of tweets last Friday, included, "Our job is to decide if Visit Florida should exist and if so how much should it be funded," and, "We're not engaged in their hiring and firing decisions."


Speaking of incentives, Republican Party of Florida Chairman Blaise Ingoglia, a state representative from Spring Hill, also isn't a fan.

But as for the incentive deal President-elect Donald Trump spun last month to keep some jobs in Indiana at air-conditioning manufacture Carrier, Ingoglia said Monday, “I totally understand the reasons why Donald Trump did that.”

Ingoglia told reporters after casting an electoral vote for Trump that the president-elect “wanted to lay down a marker from the very beginning” about protecting the interests of American companies and Americans.

"So, while I do not agree with corporate welfare, I can understand his reasoning for doing that," Ingoglia said.

Carrier landed $7 million in Indiana state tax incentives after threatening to send 2,000 jobs out of the country. For now, the company has said it will keep about 850 of the jobs in Indiana.

Ingoglia said that's just a start. He expects Trump to eventually make the playing field of regulations easier for every all businesses to navigate.

"Government is very good at building up all of these barriers of entry when it comes to business. But we build them so high that we have to subsidize them in order to help companies get along," Ingoglia said. "What I think a Donald Trump administration is going to do, I think what we're going to see, is a flattening and making it more fair of a business environment so everyone can succeed."

TWEET OF THE WEEK: "It's the shortest day of the longest year." --- Republican consultant Rick Wilson (@TheRickWilson), an outspoken critic of President-elect Donald Trump, on Wednesday, the winter solstice or shortest day of the year.


Corcoran right on this one. Visit Florida does not need to exist. None of these horse manure give away programs need to exist. Just one more example of political generosity giving away other peoples money. People and business do not need encouragement to come to Florida. Instead, we should put an impact fee on them. I voted for Rick Scott because I could not gag down the Chain Gang. Not because I thought he was great. And he is not. The last Democrat I voted for was Alex Sink. Seemed like I voted for her too rather than the Chain Gang. Running the government is not the same as running a business. I, for one, remember Scott escaping indictment by the hair on his head. Shades of Lois Lerner. The 5th - 75 times. Not sure if that is my signature or not. But he escaped with a couple hundred million of health care fraud money. I am pretty die hard right wing - but if Scott is the candidate for US Senate I will look elsewhere first. Not saying I won't hold my nose and vote for him - but I will look elsewhere first. Ya really think we need to make state parks pay for themselves? Really? It would be nice if we killed the pythons in the Glades. Solution is simple but seemingly beyond the ken of the politicians except for when they don their Abercrombie and Fitch outfit for a photo op. In case you didn't catch it, there are about no small mammals or birds left in the Glades. Scott is a putz.

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