Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran: Tallahassee legislators represent people better than local governments
TAMPA -- Florida's legislators are more responsive to Floridians and less susceptible to special interest influence than local governments, Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran asserted to a skeptical and occasionally hostile group of Tampa Bay residents this morning.
"If you are a special interest or you are somebody that wants to curry favor, it is generally much more difficult in a comparative scale to get something through in the state government that would affect the state than it is the local government," the Pasco County Republican told about 100 people gathered for the weekly Cafe con Tampa breakfast in South Tampa.
"To get something through on a local level you have to win over seven or five people. To get something through in Tallahassee, you've got to get something through one chamber with 120 people, something through another chamber that has 40 people, and then you have an executive with veto power. The greater input from more and more people, as our founders thought, that scrutiny allows there to end up being a better and better product."
Corcoran, who is raising money for a potential gubernatorial run in 2018, faced a Democratic-leaning crowd at the Oxford Exchange. Audience members scoffed, laughed and gently jeered at times as he defended the Legislature's move to expand public funding for charter schools and his support for measures cutting property taxes for local governments and restricting local government's abilities to regulate businesses and activities.
"What I was doing was following the founders' belief in the constitutional hierarchy and trying to say that that power rests in the state government," Corcoran said when asked about restricting local government's ability to enact local business regulations.
Former Hillsborough County Commissioner Ed Turanchik said that sentiment among Republicans in Tallahassee seems to be a stark departure from the traditional conservative view that the best government is local government that is closest to the people.
"I expect most people think that if you had a vote and said which government would you get rid of, they would get rid of the Legislature before they would county commissioners or city council members because (those members) are closer to them," Turanchik said. "You're espousing a view that we're going to tell you how to do things, and yet the Legislature is very removed from the people."
Corcoran said Florida House members are closer to the people because they face re-election every two years, though most legislators face little or no competition thanks to how the districts are drawn and the financial-advantaged incumbents have. He said he may press for two-year term limits for more local elected officials.
Tampa City Council member Harry Cohen lamented the Legislature backing a ballot measure that, if passed by voters, would expand the state homestead property tax exemption to $75,000. That would cut around $6 million from Tampa's budget and $30 million from Hillsborough County's.
"I care more about the people of this state than I care about the governments of this state," Corcoran retorted, noting that local governments over the last decade have been far more inclined to raise taxes than legislators in Tallahassee.
"Give me 180 days with your budget and I promise you I'll find that $6 million and I won't have cut one essential service or raise one penny in taxes," Corcoran said.