Gov. Scott plans economic 'victory tour' with former rival Corcoran

By Troy Kinsey, Reporter
Last Updated: Monday, June 12, 2017, 6:27 PM EDT

Gov. Rick Scott will embark on a five-city "victory tour" Tuesday to celebrate the surprise passage of his once-moribund economic development agenda during last week's special legislative session.

As he travels from Miami to West Palm Beach, Ft. Myers, Tampa and Jacksonville, the governor will be joined at several stops by a strange new bedfellow: House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who spent months criticizing Scott's prized business incentive funding as "corporate welfare."

The two leaders resolved their bitter impasse with a multi-pronged agreement that delivers on Corcoran's priority of increased funding for charter schools in exchange for an $85 million economic development fund Scott can use to invest in infrastructure projects and job training programs.

Visit Florida, which had been in line to lose two-thirds of its budget, will have its funding restored.

"I'm excited to travel the state and brag about what got accomplished in the special session," Scott said at a post-session celebration in the Capitol rotunda. "I know everybody worked hard and everybody's excited about the end result."

Everybody, that is, except the governor's critics, many of whom had sided with Corcoran in his distaste for the incentives.

They're attacking the new economic development funding as a gubernatorial "slush fund" Scott can use to reward his political benefactors as he readies a campaign for the U.S. Senate.

In an interview, however, Corcoran said the fund comes with significant strings attached, including a prohibition on directing funds to individual companies as part of business incentive-style transactions. The rules largely mirror those that state representatives now have to follow in requesting taxpayer money for local projects.

"Up until we took over and started having them fill out a 37-question questionnaire on what it was doing, who it went to, what was the return on investment, what was the punishment if they didn't do it, that never existed and nobody ever complained about just having in the budget a building," Corcoran said. "And so, now we're going to say members can do it but the governor can't? That doesn't make any sense at all."

And so, the most unlikely of political alliances - one forged in the backrooms of an increasingly transactional state Capitol - will be taking a statewide road trip Tuesday, with the partial goal of convincing Floridians that one of the most bitter intra-party rivalries in recent memory wasn't really all that bad.