After laying out Democrats’ priorities for the House this session, Florida House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz said she would support Republican Speaker Richard Corcoran’s attacks on Enterprise Florida and VISIT Florida.
Speaking before journalists gathered for the Florida Legislative Planning Session, Cruz, of Tampa, pledged that Democrats would continue to fight for increasing funding for public education, particularly for teachers, health care coverage for low-income Floridians and support for public hospitals.
Afterward, pressed for where that money might come from, she offered to do away with corporate development incentives provided by Enterprise Florida, incentives that were vigorously defended by Gov. Rick Scott, but targeted by Speaker Corcoran for major reform, at the same conference.
“I understand the importance of attracting business, but in a good economy, do we really need to spend that money to attract businesses? Won’t they come to Florida?” Cruz challenged. “I think in a good economy these corporations find their way to Tampa without incentives.”
Cruz offered that she sees both sides on corporate incentives, but added, “we still have teachers that are some of the lowest paid in the country. We have school funding that is 50th. You know, that’s why I say we have misplaced priorities.
“Maybe we make cuts on some of the Enterprise money; maybe we start there,” Cruz said.
The priorities that she laid out are not new to Democrats. Cruz said the party and leadership have to do a better job of making a case for how the priorities would help Floridians.
“I don’t think as Democrats we’ve done a good enough job of articulating our core values have a direct impact on ensuring Florida’s families can continue to climb the economic ladder to success,” she said. “It comes down to the simple idea that we need to get more money into Floridian’s pockets.”
Those priorities include that:
— Every child deserves a quality public education. That includes re-expansion of the Bright Futures scholarship program.
— Every Floridian should have access to quality, affordable health care.
— Florida protects and preserves the environment for future generations.
— Florida creates “safe communities” where families can live without the threat of violence.
— Floridians all deserve the same equal a uniform treatment under the law.
— And “everyone deserves a fair shot to achieve their version of the American Dream.”
In question and answer, Cruz took to defending hospitals for criticism and state subsidy cuts, saying they had become like public schools and teachers, vilified by some Republicans for opposing Republican initiatives, and then cut.
“Years ago this started where we villainized teachers, and we villainized the unions that support them. Now I think that all has changed in the direction of public hospitals. Hospitals are not accustomed to being villains, but they are being villainized. You hear, ‘Oh, the hospitals are too large. They need to be privatized.’ All of this is an attempt to privatize. So we Democrats are standing up for our safety-net hospitals.”