Conference update: Senate ups funding offer for economic incentives

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Senate negotiators have placed $79.3 million on the table for one-time funding of state incentives and economic programs as talks moved into the weekend with their House counterparts on economic and infrastructure items.

A far cry from Gov. Rick Scott’s budget line request, but the amount is $30 million more than the most recent offer from the House.

Overall, the two chambers are now more than $80 million apart on the transportation, tourism and economic development projects, which is further apart than when they started talks Friday afternoon.

But negotiators expressed confidence in being able to quickly wrap up talks that are to resume Saturday morning on the nearly $11.2 billion portion of the state’s budget.

The confidence comes as they have settled most of the more than 400 individual line items in this part of the budget.

The two sides have agreed on items ranging from $1 million for both the Government House renovations in St. Petersburg and the Capitol Theatre renovations in Clearwater, to the $750,000 for the Frank Lloyd Wright House at Florida Southern College, $500,000 for the Naples Botanical Gardens, and $250,000 to complete work on The Grove next to the Governor’s Mansion.

When talks concluded Friday night, the Senate had offered $5 million for Space Florida and $15 million for Visit Florida, both increases from earlier in the day. The House has proposed $10 million for Space Florida and $20 million for Visit Florida.

The $79.3 million for incentives and economic programs intended to attract businesses to Florida was a leap from the Senate’s initial allocation of $20 million. 

The House has offered $46.3 million for the programs. 

Scott had requested $173 million for the programs run through Enterprise Florida.

“The governor should be happy, he wanted $200 million, but we’re getting there,” said Sen. Andy Gardiner.

Another divide remains over the Senate’s $50 million for completion of the St. Petersburg to Titusville “Coast to Coast Connector Trail” bicycle and foot path.

The House so far doesn’t want to put any money into the project.

Neither chamber proposed to fund Scott’s request for economic development offices in Japan and China. The Senate does include $100,000 for an economic development office in Tel Aviv.

The Senate had proposed $500,000 for the St. Johns Ferry, but the amount is expected to be withdrawn as Scott announced Friday that the money would come from the Florida Department of Transportation.

Material from the News Service of Florida was used in this post.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.