Gov. Rick Scott, Mayor Bob Buckhorn talk convention cash in Tallahassee

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2 November 2011
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn met with Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday in Tallahassee to exchange pleasantries, swap details of their upcoming trips to Israel and seek help in providing security at the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa.

"It was good. I'm sort of doing my first tour up here as mayor," Buckhorn said after he met with Scott and the governor introduced him to key staff members. "I've met him (Scott) socially before, but this was my first real chance to sit down with him."

With former Gov. Bob Martinez, the city's lobbyist, at his side, Buckhorn sought Scott's intervention in Tampa getting $55 million from the federal government to help defray the costs of security at the GOP event in August. The mayor said the city will need to hire 4,000 law enforcement personnel, a $25 million expenditure.

"We're hoping the federal government will get moving and get moving quickly on it," Buckhorn said. "I don't have $55 million lying around."

Scott later told reporters he has already raised the issue with several members of the Florida congressional delegation and will continue to do so.

Buckhorn, a Democrat, was asked how Scott, a Republican, is doing. "On the issues that I care about, in terms of job creation, I think he is somebody I can go to if we have a project, and I think he'll move mountains to help us get it done," Buckhorn said. "As a mayor, on the economic development front, I couldn't be happier."

"He's got the same issues I've got: growing jobs," Scott said of Buckhorn.

By coincidence, both men plan trips to Israel in the coming weeks. Buckhorn heads there in late November, Scott in December.

Scott backs pension fund head

The governor expressed confidence Tuesday in Ash Williams, executive director of the State Board of Administration, which manages the pension fund for state employees.

Williams is up for reappointment soon by the SBA trustees (Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and CFO Jeff Atwater). Williams could "do a better job of presenting" information, Scott said, but overall is doing his job well.

"If you think about his job, his job is to get the best returns we can without taking more risk than he should. That's not easy," Scott said. "So today I think he's doing that."

The balance in the pension fund was $121 billion as of Monday, a 1.2 percent increase since January but a $7 billion decline from the pension's highest value this year, Williams told the trustees.

Casino foes issue a warning

A coalition of religious and antigambling groups said it will mount fierce opposition to legislation to authorize "destination resort" casinos in Florida, including holding lawmakers accountable for their votes.

The groups said they will not only provide a vocal opposition to the bills being shepherded by Rep. Erik Fresen, R-Miami, and Sen. Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, but they will score and publish the voting records of all committee members, mail pledge forms to all 160 legislators, create an online "wall of shame" and research the financial contributions from the gambling industry to lawmakers and the governor.

"We will not sit back idly as the gambling industry attempts to buy out Florida and her elected officials with the corrupting influence of gaming money,'' said John Stemberger, lobbyist for the conservative Florida Family Policy Council, which will host the legislative report cards on its website.

The group joined Florida Casino Watch, the Florida Catholic Conference, the Florida Baptist Convention and Reps. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, and Rep. Rachel Burgin, R-Riverview, in announcing their opposition to the proposal.

Times/Herald Staff Writers Alex Leary and Mary Ellen Klas contributed to this report.

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