TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Rick Scott vigorously defended the Florida state agencies that recruit businesses and promote tourism and pushed for more money to fight terrorism in a speech Tuesday that also touched on the impact the Zika virus and two hurricanes had on the state.
Scott told lawmakers in his annual State of the State speech that it would be shortsighted to make cuts at Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida and touted both as important economic drivers. It was a shot at Republican lawmakers who are proposing eliminating or significantly cutting state money for the agencies.
"Let me be very direct about this subject," Scott said in the prepared version of his remarks. "I know exactly how businesses operate, because I've done it. For our state to simply say, 'We are not going to compete with other states, we are not going to make it easier to incentivize job creators to grow in Florida,' that's just a big mistake."
He similarly defended Visit Florida, which was recently criticized for agreeing to a $1 million secret contract to pay rapper Pitbull to promote Florida and film a video for the song "Sexy Beaches."
While Scott acknowledged mistakes, he said the solution is to fix problems — not get rid of the agency in a state that had 113 million tourists last year.
"Getting rid of Visit Florida and ending advertising for tourism doesn't make sense in the real world," Scott said. "Coca-Cola and Chick-fil-A didn't stop running ads when they reached the top of their industry."
Scott also pushed for a package of tax cuts, including the elimination of a tax on business leases, a three-day sales tax holiday for active service members and veterans and a nine-day sales tax holiday for hurricane supplies.
"Let's remember, when jobs are created, it helps the poorest, most disadvantaged families who need a job the most — families just like mine when I was growing up," Scott said.
Scott urged lawmakers to approve his budget proposal for $6 million to fight terrorism of the sort that resulted in the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando last year that left 49 dead.
Orlando police SWAT team member Michael Napolitano whose helmet stopped a bullet during the Pulse nightclub attack was honored during the State of the State address along with other law enforcement agents who responded to the mass shooting on June 12.
Watch Scott's remarks on Pulse below:
"The hardest thing I have ever had to do as governor is try to find the words to console a parent who lost a child," Scott said.
Equality Florida questioned why the governor did not mention that the Pulse shooters targeted Orlando's LGBT community.
"This morning we heard from Governor Rick Scott about the Pulse tragedy. But what we didn't hear was a single acknowledgment that the Pulse massacre was a direct attack on LGBT Floridians,” Hannah Willard with Equality Florida said. “Thoughts and prayers are not enough. LGBT Floridians deserve action, and we are disappointed that the Governor chose to disregard the very real pain of the LGBT community here in Florida."
He said the state was also rocked by the Fort Lauderdale airport shooting that left five dead, the spread of the Zika virus and two hurricanes.
"While heartbreaking, these tragedies have given me a new perspective," Scott said. "We must be even more resolved to build a society where any child, no matter where they are from, has the opportunity to live their dreams."