I love Florida. (Or, at least, NE Florida.) There are certain things I kind of miss about NJ — well, the area where I lived, anyway — and I still have friends there. But, despite the humid summers and hurricane warnings, I’ve come to appreciate Florida. And, I also appreciate our (relatively new) governor, Rick Scott. I confess, I don’t always pay attention to state politics & issues. (It seems like it’s all I can do to keep abreast of national and international goings-on.) And, when I do, I don’t always agree with Scott’s decisions. But, overall I think he’s doing a pretty decent job.
Last week, Gov. Scott spoke at the seventh annual “Defending the American Dream Summit” hosted by Americans for Prosperity Foundation in Orlando. (h/t: The Project to Restore America) After some initial remarks about his family and his good-natured competition with Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, Gov. Scott got to his main message:
In Florida, we are experiencing an economic turnaround. I have one goal today and that is to make you leave here bragging about Florida. If you are originally a Texan –- or a New Yorker -– the bragging part will come pretty easy!
My wife, Ann, grew up in Texas and I think I had lived there for just two days before I started bragging about the darn state. So, I hope you all take away several things today about the success of the great state of Florida and learn to brag about us, too.
Most of you know that this is the only political office I have ever held.
My parents didn’t have much growing up: my Dad was a truck driver; my Mom worked at JC Penney as a clerk, and a bunch of other odd jobs. They struggled to find work. We lived in public housing. I learned quickly that I would have to work hard and study hard to follow my dreams. I got my first job while I was still in elementary school — selling TV Guides door-to-door.
I enlisted in the U.S. Navy after high school and then worked my way through college and law school. I went on to a career in law, and then business, before deciding to run for Governor in 2010.
In 2010, our state was in a free fall. We had lost more than 800,000 jobs during the four years before I took office. Our real estate market had collapsed. Our state debt had grown by about a billion dollars a year for two decades. And, thousands of government regulations were killing job creation.
I came into office just as President Obama’s stimulus money was on the way out. My predecessor had made a name for himself by hugging President Obama’s non-stop spending –- and even hugging the President. When asked about taking all the stimulus, he said he “needed the money.” As a result, spending and debt increased at an alarming rate.
DC’s spending addiction had spread to Florida. Hard decisions had been delayed and replaced with the shortsighted policies of more debt and more spending. Florida was in a hole, and for about four years the state just kept digging.
When I took office, the bill had come due.
It was time to stop digging and climb out of the hole. We knew the only way out was to create jobs. Taxes are primarily paid by successful companies and people with jobs. In Florida, it was time to make the hard decisions to: Right-siz[e] government. Reduce spending. And pay down debt.
I have a quote hanging on the wall in my office by Teddy Roosevelt about the “Man in the Arena.” It reads: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.” Those words inspire me in great challenges, because there is no shortage of critics during tough times.
I took office with a projected $3.6 billion budget gap. As we made the hard decisions to live within our means during my first year in office, there was plenty of criticism to go around. We streamlined services and targeted reforms to help businesses compete. But, we heard from the critics when we turned down stimulus funds and balanced the budget. They said, federal money was “free.” I was told to grab all the free federal money I could.
As part of our effort to reduce fraud and help families, we also passed legislation requiring drug testing for welfare recipients. The critics were mad. They said that drug testing someone applying for welfare was a violation of their rights. I disagree. Welfare is designed to support children, and parents receiving government assistance should be drug free. Illegal drug use has no place in any family. Unfortunately, this reform is still stuck in the courts. But, we will keep fighting.
To further reduce government waste, we reformed our unemployment assistance program. Federal unemployment money was pouring out of DC, but there wasn’t enough oversight in place to limit waste and abuse. We passed a law to require people on unemployment to show they were actively seeking a job every week.
If we believe in common sense, conservative solutions, we must be willing to face the critics and get in the arena and fight. I have now been in office for more than two years and we are beginning to see the results of conservative, pro-growth solutions in Florida:
* We have turned around a four-year record of 800,000 lost jobs before I took office, and the private sector in Florida has now created nearly 370,000 jobs over the last 2 1/2 years.
* Our unemployment rate has dropped below the national average, and Florida’s rate has had the second biggest improvement in the country.
* We have paid off $3.5 billion in state debt.
* We have downsized our state government workforce to the lowest level in the history of Florida. Why? Because the private sector is the engine to job creation -– not government.
* We have eliminated more than 2,600 state regulations on job creators.
* We paid back $3.5 billion in federal loans for re-employment assistance.
* And, we did all this while also cutting taxes five times in three years, including: The elimination of the sales tax on manufacturing equipment to help jump-start manufacturing investment. Continuing to roll back the business tax, so that today around 70 percent of our businesses no longer pay it. And, we cut property taxes for homeowners and businesses.
* After right-sizing government and cutting taxes, this year, we had our first budget surplus in six years. But, it gets better.
* Just a few weeks ago, our State Revenue Estimating Conference announced that the general revenue now forecasted for 2014-2015 in Florida will be the highest ever. The highest ever.
Conservative, pro-growth policies are clearly working in Florida. And, more revenue into the state means we must return more tax dollars to the hardworking people of Florida. After all, it’s your money.
That’s why I am excited to announce today that I will fight to cut taxes and fees for Florida families by half a billion dollars in our next proposed budget. It’s your money, not the government’s.
Working with the Florida Legislature, we have cut taxes year after year, even while forcing government to live within its means. This year, we are committed to returning even more money to the hard-working Florida families who earn it. I look forward to working with our friends in the Florida Legislature to make these tax cuts a reality.
Conservative, pro-growth policies are working in Florida, and that is something to brag about.
I hope our federal leaders in DC are paying attention. Florida is proving that conservative policies work. Cutting taxes, right-sizing government, and reducing regulations means businesses have the support they need to create jobs.
President Obama was here a few weeks ago. He said he has decided to turn his attention back to jobs. Am I the only one wondering what in the world the President has been focused on if he wasn’t focused on jobs? In Florida, we have one focus: jobs. And, we are proud of it.
I have already taken nine trade missions all across the globe to meet with businesses and encourage them to invest in Florida. The Florida turnaround story is traveling the globe.
Let me brag just a little bit more about the success of our conservative, pro-growth formula: Our economic growth has allowed us to make record investments in our state education system. We have increased our investment in K-12 education by more than $2 billion in two years. I believe that the workforce of tomorrow is in Florida classrooms today. We have also been able to make record investments in our infrastructure – including our major ports that make us a worldwide competitor for jobs.
Over 19 languages are spoken in our state. We have around 5 million multilingual speakers, and our 15 seaports make us a central point for global commerce. We want people all over the world to start bragging about Florida.
In closing, I want to leave you with a challenge.
As conservatives, we believe in economic growth, personal freedom and personal accountability. The fight for our ideas [ideals?] will never be easy. But, I want to challenge all of us to fight the temptation to be a critic. Let no one ever be able to call us “the Party of No.”
The world has no shortage of critics. We need more people to get in the arena. It will be messy and it will be bloody, as President Roosevelt said. We will experience setbacks and “shortcomings.” But, we must be willing to try. Anyone can talk about problems. We must offer solutions.
The more I reflect on Roosevelt’s story, the more I am convinced that it was not just courage that motivated the “man in the arena.” I believe that the “man in the arena” was also an optimist. He believed not only in the battle, but in the better days that come in the wake of victory.
I am an optimist by nature. I believe in leaving my children and my grandchildren a better state and a better nation.
In 2010, I campaigned on an agenda to create 700,000 jobs in seven years. The critics laughed. They said the numbers just weren’t there to support that kind of job creation, and Florida wouldn’t be able to rebound that quickly. The critics said unemployment would not fall below the national average before 2018.
Today, we know that we are already more than halfway to our goal of creating 700,000 jobs in seven years. And, official forecasts predict Florida will create 900,000 new jobs by 2018. Even more, our unemployment rate dropped below the national average in March of this year, and we haven’t turned back.
Conservative, pro-growth solutions are working in Florida. We have a lot to brag about. Our future is bright, indeed.
Conservative, pro-growth solutions are also working in Texas and Louisiana, under the great leadership of Governor Perry and Governor Jindal, who you heard from earlier. In fact, Governor Jindal recently tried to eliminate Louisiana’s state income tax. It was the right idea, and it would have made Louisiana a very serious job competitor with Florida and Texas if he had won that fight.
As optimists, let us never think that the “battle is lost.” May our place never be “with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” Let’s get in the arena together. Our solutions are worth fighting for. Our solutions are growing the economy. Our solutions are creating jobs. Our solutions are good for every family.
And, the world will soon brag about Florida because it’s working.
Sounds good to me.
In fact, I anticipate nabbing one of those new jobs for myself!