As expected, the Florida House and Senate backed new state budget plans on Wednesday that are in conflict over how to handle one of Gov. Rick Scott's top priorities.
The Senate Appropriations Committee voted out a budget that heads to the full Senate next that includes the $250 million Scott has requested for a pool of funding that he wants to use as incentive money to lure companies to move jobs to Florida. About $100 million of that funding in the Senate's plan would come from the state's expected share of settlement money from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
Key members of the Senate have been critical of Scott's job incentive program over the last year questioning the return on the investment and what kinds of jobs it is really bringing to Florida. But Senate Appropriations chairman Tom Lee, R-Brandon, said on Wednesday he backed the idea because its so important for Scott and is a legitimate use of state funding.
"There is an argument to be made that the governor has based his legacy and staked his political reputation on creating jobs," Lee said. "We want to help the governor get where he wants to get within reason."
But the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday passed a spending plan that includes no new money for the incentive program.
"At this time we don't have additional funding for new incentives in this budget," said State Rep. Clay Ingram, R-Pensacola, who runs a subcommittee that has jurisdiction over job incentive funding.
Ingram said the House is working with Scott's office on language to reform the incentive program in a way acceptable to the House.
"We are not quite in agreement on policy language but there is plenty of time left in the process," Ingram said.
If both the House and Senate pass budgets with different amounts for the program, they would have to meet to hammer out the differences. The chambers must pass identical budgets.
Scott has been very public about his push for the job incentive program. He has used a bus tour, television ads and a rally in the Capitol on Wednesday, to explain that the incentive money is critical to drawing new industries to Florida to better diversify the state's economy.