House Speaker Richard Corcoran is watching Tallahassee like a hawk -- suspicious of everything unless it's transparent, he admits. And even then, he'll put it under a microscope.
In the dead of night he creeps down the stairs, turns on a light and flushes out cockroaches -- well, figuratively speaking.
That's what he said Tuesday at the annual Associated Press meeting for reporters and editors. "... There are cockroaches everywhere and I think you're seeing that," Corcoran, R-Land O' Lakes, told the media gathered on the Capitol's top floor. "You turn on the lights, and there's Enterprise Florida and you say, let's take a closer look ..."
In a press gaggle later, he gave Gov. Rick Scott's requests for $85 million for job incentives and $76 million to promote tourism zero chance for passage in the House.
Free enterprise "lifts all boats," he said. "Florida shouldn't be into picking winners and losers" and the money we're giving to "these top 1 percent companies" coming in to compete with existing businesses could go to education, police departments, a myriad of needs closer to "the people."
Corcoran said he and Senate President Joe Negron are friends -- they are not "on a collision course," as some have suggested, because the budget will be done on time and on target no matter what. But he said the House won't go along with borrowing money by issuing bonds for big projects, for instance, land for a reservoir and improvements to higher education. "We're not bonding," he said.
Another thing Corcoran isn't accepting members' earmarks without a lot of explantion. And, above all, he isn't raising taxes. Scott's education budget proposal is DOA, he said, because it would produce $475 million more in tax revenue as a result of rising property values. That's a tax increase in Corcoran's book. "The House is not raising taxes," he declared.
A committed conservative, the speaker is proud of his crusade to expose public officials who engage in what he considers unethical, even "borderline corrupt" conduct -- including officials who serve outside the Legislature. Jacksonville Judge Mark Hulsey III of the 4th Judicial Circuit, for instance, resigned after Corcoran pushed the House to begin impeachment proceedings against him. (Among other inappropriate remarks, Hulsey was accused of uttering a racial insult: Blacks, the judge said, should "get back on a ship and go back to Africa.")
From the day he took the gavel, Corcoran has vowed to initiate sweeping ethics reforms and end Tallahassee's culture of government by behind-the-cutain lobbying. "I think we're achieving a level of transparency that's never existed in Florida government before," he said.
Corcoran admits he is driven by philosophical commitment.
He had a reputation even in 2008, when he served as an aide to House Speaker Marco Rubio, as a "my way or the highway" kind of leader and a stickler for clean, open government.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith
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