Rick Scott's State of the State address focuses on economic growth, education and no new taxes
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01/10/12 Janelle Irwin
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Governor Rick Scott plans to add a billion dollars back into public education. Everything else during his State of the State address this morning fell in line with his actions during the last year. Some Democrats aren’t buying the Governor’s plan to improve education and restore Florida’s economy.

The first bill Scott signed as governor made it easier for teachers to get fired and linked their pay to their students’ performance. It was seen by many teachers as an egregious attack on their jobs. Scott highlighted that as a win for both teachers and students.

“When we increased school choice for Florida’s parents, we also refocused an outdated tenure system into a system that can reward its best performers for excelling in educating our students.”

Scott also signed legislation in 2011 that left teachers and other state employees feeling the effects of shrinking paychecks by requiring 3 percent of their pay be contributed to their pensions.

“Last year with your help, we re-engineered the pension plan for Florida state workers so that the individuals who will share in its rewards also share in its funding. This will save taxpayers money and align government’s practices with the private sector.”

Governor Scott said in his speech that his constituents have consistently told him to ensure the right of children in Florida to a quality public education. With that, he recommended what he called a billion dollars in new funding for public education. But that only puts a dent in the 1.35 billion dollar cut he signed last year. To fit the funding into the budget Scott may pull from Medicaid and Medicare. Senate minority leader Nan Rich, a Democrat, doesn’t think that is a good idea.

“A billion dollar false choice pitting our hospitals against our teachers. The Republican solution to solving the economic crisis in Florida has actually come down to grandparents verses grandchildren.”

A poll released today by Quinnipiac University shows Rick Scott’s approval inching up a bit to 38 percent of registered voters. That’s the highest it has been since he took office. Rich said the governor needs to get real if he really thinks his first year in office has led to an economic improvement in Florida.

“Look at the vacant homes in your neighborhood littered with foreclosure sale signs, scan the want ads in your local paper and count how many job openings there are and what they’re paying, drive through your community and count the number of closed businesses. Open your property insurance bill - if your policy hasn’t been cancelled – and your car insurance renewal. Brace for the sticker shock. Because if this is turning things around, we’re still hopelessly running in circles.”

If there’s one thing Scott has stuck to it’s his promise not to raise taxes.

“Last year you passed and I signed a budget we balanced without raising taxes or fees despite a revenue shortfall of nearly 4 billion dollars. We did this by making government lean and effective.”

He’s also going after regulations because he says along with taxes,

“They are the great destroyers of capital and time for small businesses. Almost every dollar I earned as a shop owner went toward growing our little doughnut shops. So, every dollar taken in taxes slows the growth. And that impacts jobs. Almost every minute I had in the day also went toward growing our small business. So, every minute I had to spend addressing some new regulation also slowed growth.”

Democratic state representative Ron Saunders doesn’t want the middle class taxed, but would like to see Governor Scott collecting taxes the state is already entitled to. Like sales tax from corporate giants like Amazon.

“We must collect from wealthy, out of state corporations what is already owed to Florida. House Democrats want a tax system that promotes fairness for Floridians not favoritism for wealthy political contributors.”

One other item Governor Scott wants to see addressed in 2012 is personal injury protection fraud, which Scott has called rampant.

“If we’re going to be serious about keeping the cost of living low for Floridians, we have to get tough on the fraud and abuse in the auto insurance system. We all have to remember, it is the consumers in our state that we must protect, not trial lawyers or those involved in these scams.”

During the Governor’s address, dozens of Occupy Florida protestors stood outside the Florida House chambers and chanted their concerns. They handed out leaflets on grievances that included more open government and better public education.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report

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