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Gov. Scott Back In Jacksonville, Rails Against Cuts To Business Incentives

Ryan Benk

Florida Governor Rick Scott was in Jacksonville Tuesday to celebrate the grand opening of a new aluminum bottle plant on the Westside.

The Anheuser-Busch plant manufactures 9 million aluminum beer bottles here a day, and has already hired more than 100 new employees. Scott used the ribbon-cutting ceremony as a rally against cuts to the state’s economic-development agency.

Sen. Rob Bradley, R-Orange Park, told Scott he’s sorry about this year’s budget.

“Governor, I wish we could’ve done better this session. But know this: Senator (Audrey) Gibson, Senator (Aaron) Bean and I are behind you 100 percent,” he said.

The three First Coast lawmakers opposed their colleagues’ vote to cut the budget of Enterprise Florida, the state’s business incentive arm, from $23 million to $16 million.

With Bradley’s arm around her, Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville, said business incentives should unify the right and left. The Anheuser plant is in her district.

“I’m proud to stand here with my Republican colleagues and my Republican governor in a bipartisan way to talk about jobs for Jacksonville,” she said.

Along with the cuts to Enterprise Florida, the Legislature also passed a budget that doesn’t fund what’s called “the quick action closing fund” for a second year in a row, which  are up-front incentives to lure companies, including Anheuser-Busch with this plant.

“This is one of the last projects where we had the quick action closing funds, which is one of the things in the toolkit we have to recruit companies,” he said. “We don't have those dollars any more. So, we’re going to see fewer and fewer of these job opportunities.”

Scott is urging Floridians to call lawmakers and complain about the cuts. He can veto the whole budget outright or veto specific appropriations.

Reporter Ryan Benk can be reached at, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter @RyanMichaelBenk.

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.