Scott berates budget as ‘backroom deal,’ says he could veto whole thing

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, whose priorities were largely ignored by the Florida Legislature in passing an $83 billion budget Monday night, accused lawmakers on Tuesday of acting “largely behind closed doors” and mentioned the possibility he’ll veto the entire spending blueprint.

Florida governors regularly exercise line-item veto authority, but a governor hasn’t vetoed an entire budget since Lawton Chiles did in 1992.

The Republican-controlled House and Senate stung the Republican governor by not approving business and tourism incentive money Scott wanted and by rejecting his request for $200 million for repairs to the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee.

With Scott expected to run for the seat of Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson in 2018, Republican lawmakers previewed a likely Democratic line of attack by deriding the incentive money Scott favored as “corporate welfare.”

House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’ Lakes, Corcoran even borrowed a line from Bernie Sanders last fall to slam Scott’s beloved Enterprise Florida business incentive program.

“The government engaging in social engineering to pick winners and losers that benefit the 1 percent is a bad deal for Florida taxpayers. There will not be any corporate welfare in the House budget,” Corcoran said in September.

Scott defended the incentive money in a statement his office released Tuesday afternoon.

“Once again, the Florida Legislature has turned their back on Florida’s ability to fund economic incentive deals that help our state outcompete our top competitors for important jobs,” Scott said. “This is very concerning to me and is an action that each member will have to defend as their local communities lose out on new manufacturing facilities, headquarter relocations and thousands of high wage jobs for families.”

Scott said the failure to fund tourism marketing at the level Scott wanted could lead to a “drastic reduction in visitor spending” in the Sunshine State.

Scott also said he was “shocked” by the legislature’s decision not to fund repairs of the Herbert Hoover Dike around Lake Okeechobee. “For years, I urged President Obama to fix the dike, and now when President Trump has committed funding for this project, the Legislature irresponsibly ignored it,” he said.

And he criticized the Legislature for operating out of the public eye.

Negotiations over several portions of the budget, and budget-linked bills called “conforming bills,” took place largely behind closed doors. This included a 278-page education bill that wasn’t unveiled until after 4 p.m. on Friday, the last day of the regular session. With the budget undone until Friday, lawmakers couldn’t vote on it until Monday, because the Constitution requires a 72-hour waiting period after all lawmakers have received a copy of the budget before they can vote.

“Last night, the Florida Legislature passed a budget that was done largely behind closed doors. It was done without important input from the public and many members of the legislature who were elected by Floridians to serve them. That’s unfortunate,” Scott said.

“I ran for Governor to fight career politicians and it’s backroom deals like this that make families think politics is nothing more than a game.”

Scott added: “I am beginning to review the budget and I have the option of vetoing the entire budget or vetoing the items that circumvented the transparent process and do not have an acceptable return on investment for hardworking taxpayers.”

Corcoran last week defended the budget process as an extension of his effort to exert legislative authority.

“Under Article III (of the state Constitution), we have that right,” Corcoran told reporters. “And I’ve said it to you guys from the beginning: One of my biggest criticisms coming in as speaker was, we’re the body closest to the people, the Legislature. And what we’re going to do is, we’re going to go out there and we’re going to grab that authority.”

Corcoran and Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, also said that many of the ideas incorporated into the budget “conforming” bills had been debated elsewhere earlier in the session.

A spokeswoman for Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, also addressed Scott’s “backroom deals” accusation on Monday by saying public testimony was incorporated in budget deliberations and meetings frequently included staff from the governor’s office and state agencies.

Scott started drumming up support of this priorities last week, spending three days visiting 10 cities, including Riviera Beach, to speak on those issues

But state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, who became the Republican Party of Florida chairman in 2015 by defeating Scott’s preferred candidate, predicted voters wouldn’t be swayed.

“I really, truly think that the governor is underestimating how many people do not like corporate welfare,” Ingoglia said in an interview last week in Tallahassee as the Legislature neared completion of the budget.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this story.

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