Next Florida House Speaker contends GOP budget full of waste

Florida's next House speaker — laying the groundwork for a likely contentious 2017 session — says that the state budget put together by him and other Republican leaders is full of wasteful spending that he is now promising to cut.

Rep. Richard Corcoran said Monday that while the GOP has been in complete control of state government for close to 20 years, too many legislators spend "money like a teenager in the mall with a first-time credit card."

"It's not a Republican problem, it's not a Democrat problem, it's a government problem," said Corcoran, a Republican attorney from Pasco County who will be sworn into one of the state's most powerful positions in November.

Corcoran made his comments in the wake of a new forecast that shows the state will have a surplus of only $7.5 million during the fiscal year that starts in July 2017. That forecast shows a substantial budget gap of $1.3 billion in 2018 if nothing is done.

The new forecast, which was formally approved by a legislative panel on Monday, sets up the likelihood of yet another budget showdown in the Florida Legislature during the annual session that starts next March.

Gov. Rick Scott has made it clear that he wants to continue to push for additional tax cuts. Incoming Senate President Joe Negron has his own ambitious plans to boost spending on state universities and acquire land south of Lake Okeechobee as a part of a push to stop recent toxic algae blooms.

Corcoran said there may be a way to enact the priorities of both Scott and Negron but it will require making cuts elsewhere in Florida's roughly $82 billion budget.

"I can say unequivocally there is tons of things in this budget that need to be cut, should be cut and will be cut," said Corcoran, who himself was the House budget chairman the last two years.

Some of the areas that Corcoran targeted for possible elimination were Enterprise Florida, the state-created organization responsible for trying to lure new businesses to the state. Corcoran last year opposed a push by Scott to give Enterprise Florida additional money as "corporate welfare." He also questioned the value of the state setting aside millions for advertising that it used to try to bring tourists to Florida.