TALLAHASSEE — Joining together in a big, bipartisan show of opposition to taxpayer support for corporations, the Florida House defied the dire warnings of Gov. Rick Scott about potential job losses and voted Friday to abolish the state's economic development agency and numerous business incentives.
House Speaker Richard Corcoran has led an ideological blitzkrieg against business incentives, which have drawn critics in both parties who say they unfairly give advantage to some companies over others, often don't deliver the promised jobs, frequently go to the well-connected instead of the most deserving and generally are a misuse of government funds.
"The lion's share of the job creators in this state will work hard their entire lives, pay taxes, play by the rules and never receive one dollar of taxpayer-funded subsidies," said Rep. Paul Renner, the GOP lawmaker who carried the legislation for Corcoran.
The bill eliminating Enterprise Florida passed the House 87-29, giving Corcoran a veto-proof majority to overturn Scott if the measure makes it to his desk and gets axed. It was a big victory for the speaker — who has engaged in a months-long feud with Scott on the issue — and one that demonstrated he has tapped into an issue with deep resonance on both the right and left.
Among House Republicans who voted, 62 favored the bill — including Rep. Halsey Beshears, R-Monticello — and 14 were against it, including Rep. Brad Drake, R-Eucheeanna. Among House Democrats, 25 voted in favor and 15 were opposed. Rep. Jay Trumbull, R-Panama City, did not vote, according to MyFloridaHouse.gov.
Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith noted that it often was mentioned in the debate that "this is an idea where Bernie Sanders progressives can align with Ted Cruz conservatives."
"I'll just say that spoke to my true progressive heart," he added.
The issue has been especially divisive for Florida Republicans, with two of the state's most prominent GOP leaders on opposing sides. It has exposed an ideological rift with the party over the involvement of government in the private sector.
Scott strongly defends the incentive programs as a critical component of his efforts to grow and diversify the state's economy.
"Today, politicians in the Florida House passed job-killing legislation," Scott said in a statement after the vote, adding that lawmakers were "decimating Florida's economic toolkit and the very programs which are directly tied to the creation of thousands of jobs for Florida families."
Business groups such as the Florida Chamber of Commerce are ardently opposed to the effort to eliminate economic incentives, making the debate particularly vexing for some business-friendly Republicans who normally are aligned with the Chamber.