Gov. Rick Scott and the leaders of the Florida Legislature have reached an agreement on funding economic development efforts and education, leading to a special legislative session set for next week.
Scott, Senate President Joe Negron and Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran announced the agreement on Friday after a tense regular session which ended last month. Corcoran opposed Scott’s priorities of funding Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, leading to an all-out war over the agencies from March to May.
The legislative session will be June 7-9.
Scott signed the budget the Legislature passed last month but used the line item veto to strike out $410 million from the more than $82 billion total.
Scott also shot down bills dealing with Florida Educational Finance Program (FEFP) and gutting Visit Florida, a move highly anticipated since the Legislature headed home last month.
“Florida’s students deserve the very best and we must always do everything possible to provide them with the resources they need to get a great education,” Scott said. “It is my goal that a total of $215 million more is allocated to the FEFP which is a $100 per student increase over current year funding during the upcoming legislative session. Our students are the future of our great state and I know Speaker Corcoran is committed to our students, parents and teachers and ensuring Florida offers a world-class education to students at all levels."
The governor is calling for $215 million in additional K-12 funding and launching the Florida Job Growth Grant Fund to promote public infrastructure and individual job training, which will encourage more businesses to choose Florida as a destination to grow jobs.
The fund, Scott said, will cost $85 million to start and would "encourage more businesses to choose Florida as a destination to grow jobs."
Scott has called for full funding of $76 million for the state's tourism agency, Visit Florida.
Scott made the case for his positions on Friday.
“In addition to our common focus on ensuring a world-class education for Florida’s students, Speaker Corcoran understands the importance of ensuring future economic growth for Florida’s economy,” Scott added.
“I have fought for jobs since my very first day in office and I do not intend to stop and this new fund will give our state the tools we need to compete with other states and nations for jobs," the governor said. "Like the Legislature, I strongly believe in transparency, accountability and a strong return on investment for any taxpayer dollars used. There needs to be legislation that allows us to market our state for tourism and grow jobs while maintaining these important principals. I look forward to working with the legislature during the upcoming special session to achieve these important goals for Florida families.”
Despite his differences with Scott during the regular session, Corcoran quickly changed his tune and sounded like he was on the same page with the governor regarding the programs he passionately tried to cut as the special session looms.
"I am proud to stand with Governor Scott as we fight for continued strong job creation, giving every child a competitive and world class education, ensuring Florida competes as a tourist destination, and faithfully stewarding taxpayer dollars -- goals that unify us,” Corcoran said.
"All Floridians know that Governor Scott is committed to jobs," Corcoran said. "His willingness to work with us on this new model for economic development demonstrates that commitment and is greatly appreciated in the House. It's truly a model for the rest of the nation wrestling with ending corporate welfare. In addition, this special session will secure Florida's place as the premier tourist destination in America while ensuring that Visit Florida is completely open, accountable and transparent to the taxpayer."
Senate President Joe Negron said he felt the House would budge and move towards the Senate's positions to make ends meet during a special session.
"It appears that our colleagues in the House have expressed a willingness to move toward the Senate position in several key areas, including a significant increase in per student funding for our K-12 public schools, as well as elevating the state investment in tourism marketing and economic development efforts," he said. "I look forward to advocating for Senators’ budget priorities during the upcoming Special Session."
Key figures in crafting the House's education programs said they were hopeful the legislature would keep its priorities in line with helping public education.
"We hope to work to keep our priorities of funding public education and continue to provide choice and innovative options," said PreK-12 education budget chair Rep. Manny Diaz, Jr. "I think we can get to a place where the governor, the House and the Senate can go home with our priorities for the state accomplished."
Corcoran said Floridians should be pleased with Florida's leadership as they come back once more to work out their differences.
"The people of Florida should be proud today that you can have leaders with competing opinions and still compromise to meet common goals -- government in Florida is working and the biggest winners are all Floridians,” Corcoran concluded.
Despite the Legislature failing to get on the same page over medical marijuana, Scott did not mention that issue as he called a special session on Friday.