TALLAHASSEE – As protestors held rallies across the state denouncing budget cuts, Gov. Rick Scott was urging Florida lawmakers not to blink.
In his first State of the State address, the governor noted the continued struggles faced by Florida’s economy, and said the solution to these economic woes lie with the private sector creating jobs, and not with Florida government, which needs to quickly get out of the way.
Addressing the Florida Legislature, Scott said lawmakers should start by passing his plan to cut corporate and property taxes by $2 billion to help spur economic growth.
“These tax cuts put money back in the hands of families and business that will create private sector jobs,” said Scott, who has promised to create 700,000 jobs during his four year term.
“Here’s what I am asking the Legislature,” he said. “Give me the tools and hold me accountable for the results.”
Florida had one of the nation’s fastest growing economies when the housing market was booming between 2004 and 2006, and Orlando’s unemployment rate fell to 3 percent.
But the collapse of the housing market and the subsequent credit crunch — as banks reacted to the soaring number of abandoned, foreclosed homes — has left Florida with one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates, at 12 percent, well above the U.S. rate of 8.9 percent in February.
Scott, a venture capitalist from South Florida who was narrowly elected governor last year in his first bid for public office, said job growth needs to come from the private sector, and that lawmakers can help spur that by reducing the tax burden on businesses and families, and by reducing government spending.
“We must not lose our focus or blunt our momentum,” Scott said. “I ask you to pass our budget promptly.”
Part of that, he said, would be to “modernize our state government,” a vision that includes taking aim at Florida’s expensive pension system for public employees.
“We need to secure our state pension system and be fair to the taxpayers of Florida,” he said.
The governor also promised to address the rising cost of unemployment insurance, which has soared as the number of jobless Floridians has gone up dramatically. Scott said the cost of unemployment insurance shouldn’t be allowed to hamper future job growth.
If these steps are taken, Scott said, Florida could continue to build on its strengths, which includes tourism, an emerging high tech industry, and a beautiful natural environment of beaches and lakes.
“We will become the most exciting place in the world to live, work and play,” he said. “The leaders in the room have the power to make that happen. We have a unique opportunity.”
The governor acknowledged the opponents attacking his proposed budget cuts, saying “My jobs budget has plenty of critics.” But too many of them, he said, are believers in a large government, a vision the governor said he doesn’t share.
What Florida needs, he said, is for government to get out of the way of private business growth.
“I am completely committed to this mission, and it is completely achievable,” Scott said. “Our success will be the model for the nation.”
Gov. Scott’s State of the State address was broadcast live on The Phoenix Network, which has a studio at Hovey Court in downtown Orlando.
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