Pensacola, Florida
Saturday May 25th 2019


Outtakes—BP Money Grab

By Rick Outzen

Last weekend, I got a phone call from a friend in Tallahassee. The BP settlement funds intended for the Panhandle counties that were impacted the worst by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill were about to be hijacked by the larger counties in the state.

The Florida House Appropriations chairman, Richard Corcoran, planned to delete from a Senate appropriations bill an amendment that would have allocated $300 million of the $400 million BP Deepwater Horizon settlement to Triumph Gulf Coast as soon as BP released the funds.

The final consent order hasn’t been issued, so the funds are in limbo. The Senate wanted the money to be given to Triumph without any hesitation. Corcoran wanted the millions held over until the 2017 legislative session when he would be the Speaker of the House.

We thought we had settled this issue five years ago.  Under the terms of the Oil Spill Economic Recovery Act, three-fourths of the money was to be an endowment to diversify the economy of coastal Northwest Florida. The law established Triumph Gulf Coast, Inc. as a long-term non-governmental endowment to manage and use the funds to diversify and strengthen our regional economy.

Corcoran appears to be reneging on that commitment, and current House Speaker Steve Crisafulli is allowing him to get away with it.

Meanwhile, Corcoran and legislative leaders also made the decision to no longer fund incentives for Enterprise Florida.  Florida Commerce Secretary Bill Johnson sent out a warning to county commissioners and economic development officials around the state.

“Enterprise Florida is currently competing for 277 projects, about half dozen in our area,” wrote Johnson. Without incentives, He estimated that 50,000 new jobs may be lost.

Much of Sunday and Monday was spent talking with lawmakers, commissioners, business leaders and Tallahassee political insiders. The emotions ranged from panic to optimism to fatalism.

The political games being played with the dollars intended for our counties are numerous and multi-layered.

Lawmakers are upset with Governor Rick Scott for many reasons. He has abandoned the state Republican Party, raising money for his PAC, Let’s Get to Work. He hasn’t helped lawmakers with their campaigns.

Senate and House leaders are punishing Scott by not approving his $250 million business incentive package. In the House, lawmakers are being coerced to back this, or they run the risk of not having any of their pet projects funded.

The Triumph funds are getting caught in this fight.

Can anyone stop this money grab?  I don’t know, but this is a good time to email our lawmakers, particularly Mr. Corcoran –