Rick Scott kicks off "victory tour" at Miami's Jungle Island
To celebrate their mutual success in the three-day special session of the Legislature, Gov. Rick Scott and House Speaker Richard Corcoran ran a victory lap of the state Tuesday starting at Jungle Island in Miami.
The five-stop “Victory Tour” tour around Florida gave Scott and Corcoran chances to share the budget plans the Legislature has committed to funding, including $215 million more for K-12 education and $76 million towards Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing arm.
“Every 67 tourists is another Florida job,” Scott said.
Job growth, as is so often the case, was Scott’s main focus. He emphasized his goal of adding 200,000 jobs “month after month after month” and discussed his high hopes for the newly established $85 million Florida Job Growth Grant Fund. The Legislature created that for the governor to spend — with few restrictions — after Corcoran insisted that Enterprise Florida’s economic development mission amounted to corporate welfare and wouldn’t be funded as it had been.
“This will work to create an environment where businesses want to come to do business with us,” said Scott of his new $85 million fund.
Amid growing concerns after a week of heavy rain in South Florida, Corcoran touched on the importance of speeding repairs to Lake Okeechobee’s dike. That was another of the governor’s priorities, and he originally sought $200 million. The Legislature hadn’t allotted any money for the dike during the regular session, but relented during the deal making of the special session and gave him $50 million.
Corcoran went on to laud Senate President Joe Negron’s priority of a south reservoir for Lake Okeechobee to better deal with discharges from the lake. “Literally that's 500,000 acre feet of storage; it's more than any other place in the state and it also protects our citizens,” Corcoran said.
Scott and Corcoran repeatedly said that former President Barack Obama never invested federal money in these proposals but that President Donald Trump has given them the money needed to move forward.
Corcoran praised Trump and Scott’s relationship that led to their dual commitment to protecting the environment in Florida.
“President Trump is going to help us finish that dike — my goal is to get that done by 2022,” Scott said.
Scott also discussed Trump’s scheduled visit to Miami on Friday to unveil his new Cuba policies. Scott talked about Cuba’s lack of democracy and continued arrests of dissidents.
“What President Obama did didn’t work,” Scott said.
In regards to education, where Scott said he has made the most progress and cited the $100 per pupil increase for next year’s public schools budget, HB 7069 is still waiting for Scott’s signature or rejection. That bill has been controversial because it diverts money from public schools to charter schools in incentives to replace chronically failing neighborhood schools.
When asked whether he has made a decision on the bill, he said, “I am still reviewing it.”
Scott and Corcoran have been working closely together in recent weeks, leading to some speculation that Scott be backing Corcoran if he decides to run for higher office.
“I have not decided what I am going to do,” Scott said.