Governor Rick Scott touts triumphs during State of the State; Dems respond
Florida Governor Rick Scott delivered his State of the State address today as members of the legislature were preparing for their first day of session. During the 37-minute speech, Scott thanked several people ranging from member of the military and police to teachers and education officials. Scott also used the dayâ€™s spotlight to highlight differences between his time in office and the office which he inherited.
Scott emphasized his plan to give full time classroom teachers a $2,500 annual raise using funds from a projected budget surplus this year. That move has been downplayed by critics who argue it doesnâ€™t even come close to making up for the more than 1 billion dollars he took out of education shortly after taking office. And Twice Scott mentioned removing sales tax on manufacturing equipment â€“ a plan he touts as being part of his goal of creating 700,000 jobs over 7 years.
The Governor also brought up Medicaid expansion. After fiercely fighting the Affordable Care Act, Scott surprised Democrats and Republicans last month when he announced that he supported expanding the stateâ€™s Medicaid. Yesterday, Republican lawmakers in the House signaled they wonâ€™t go along with the expansion. But Scott reiterated his support during his State of the State address.
"In the four years before I took office Florida lost more than 825,000 jobs. Unemployment more than tripled from 3.5 to 11.1 over those 4 years. State debt increased over those 4 years by $5.2 billion. Our housing market had collapsed, our economy was off-track, Florida families were hurting. The short sighted policies of borrowing on our future had led to disaster. Together we fought to cut spending, cut taxes, and pay down debt. Our unemployment rate has now dropped by more than 3 percentage points from 2 years ago. The second biggest drop in the country. We are now at 7.9 percent, barely above the national average and we're at a 4 year low from Florida and we aren't stopping there. We have cut state debt by $2 billion, housing starts are up and consumer confidence is rebounding. Our economy has created around 200,000 new private sector jobs in the last 3 years. That means that thousands of Florida families now have the opportunity to live their dreams. It's working. We came in office saying we want to create an environment that would encourage businesses to add 700,000 jobs over 7 years. When I took office 3 years ago the debate was about whether or not that was even possible. Now there's a debate about how to count all the jobs being created and who should get credit for it. Maybe it's because I'm not a politician but I think this is a great debate to have. It celebrates the fact that our economy is once again creating jobs."
"Now our options are either having Floridians pay to fund this program in other states while denying health care to our citizens or using federal funds to help some of the poorest in our state through the Medicaid program as we explore other health care improvements. As I wrestle with this decision I thought about my mom and her struggles to give my little brother health care with no money. I concluded that for the 3 years the federal government is committed to paying 100 percent of the cost of putting new people in Medicaid I cannot in good conscience deny the uninsured access to care."
Democratic leaders in the state responded to Scottâ€™s address including South Florida Representative Perry Thurston.
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"With the budget surplus available for the first time in five years the Legislature has the opportunity now to do more than just windowdress education issues as the governor has proposed. We've got to do better and we certainly have to do better than what occurred only 2 years ago when Governor Scott and the Republican run legislature slashed $1.3 billion in funding for Florida schools. We also must do better than last year when the state cut Bright Futures scholarships that help students to pay for a college education. By focusing on education and health care, House Democratic Caucus members hope Florida can bring to shift state investments from addressing problems after they develop to preventing them in the first place. Expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Health Care Act is not just an achievable approach to ending Florida's problem of vast uninsured populace, it's also a means of celebrating Florida's economic recovery to restore our shared prosperity. Governor Scott has cut more than $1 billion from education while giving breaks to big corporations. He has the wrong priorities on education, jobs, land and water usage and voting rights. The Legislature has taken steps to reverse bad decisions that were made only 2 years ago that made it harder for people to exercise their right to vote. While there will be bipartisan progress on this important issue there is much, much more work to be done. Florida needs more voting days, more polling locations, and for those voting sites to be properly staffed and properly equipped. There are many challenges still needed to insure that everyone's vote is counted whether that vote is cast on election day, by mail, or through early voting. In the House Democratic Caucus our priorities are clear; putting children and education first. Investing in jobs and innovation for Floridians. Protecting our environment and promoting public safety and health as well as our great diversity and workforce."