The past three years of political conversation in Florida have been loud, complicated and muddled. Gov. Rick Scott went through a very tough primary election and then a very tough general election. Immediately after he was sworn in, the presidential race between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama dominated Florida’s airwaves, front pages and tweets.
Meanwhile, for the past two-and-a-half years, and especially during my time as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, I have had the distinct privilege of witnessing Gov. Scott bring positive results to the Sunshine State. It’s a story of a dramatic turnaround, and the decisions the governor has made to get us there.
Let’s set the stage.
Florida had no income tax in 2006. It still doesn’t. Florida had a diverse workforce in 2006. It still does. And Florida had low business taxes in 2006. They’re still low.
Yet after four years in office, former Gov. Charlie Crist left Florida with 832,000 jobs lost. Florida’s unemployment rate was at 3.5 percent when Crist was inaugurated. When he left the governor’s mansion, Florida was left with a whopping 11.1 percent unemployment rate. Although there was a great national recession, Florida was hit hardest with the second highest percentage point jump in unemployment out of all 50 states and Washington, D.C. during Crist’s tenure as governor.
Unchecked regulations were crippling Florida’s job creators, impairing their ability to invest and hire more workers. Borrowed federal stimulus dollars were artificially propping up funding for our schools. Florida’s debt had increased by $5 billion. Even in the midst of this, Crist ran for the United States Senate — something members of his newfound party (Democrats) criticized as bailing on Florida.
Enter Rick Scott.
Two and a half years in, Gov. Scott has engineered a masterful turnaround. So far, 330,000 private-sector jobs have been created. Unemployment has been reduced to 7.2 percent. While the rest of the nation recovers more slowly, Florida has had the second largest percentage point drop in unemployment during Scott’s tenure. He’s cut taxes 25 times, eliminated frivolous regulation and, by the end of this month, will have paid down $3 billion of our state debt.
Any good business knows it must reform its operations before investing more in them. Understanding the same is true for schools in Florida, Gov. Scott eliminated teacher tenure, passed teacher evaluation reform and instituted merit-based pay. The governor then proceeded to make the largest state-based contributions to K-12 education in Florida history. Incredibly, he was able to make these investments while lowering property taxes, lowering business taxes, and paying off our debt.
Now the governor is asking a simple question to families and businesses across America: Why not come to Florida?
That’s the legacy of Gov. Scott so far. If you want your child to get a good education, if you want to start a business, if you want to get a job and have a low cost-of-living, come to Florida. The political conversation will inevitably get louder, complicated and muddled again, as we go into the 2014 election cycle. But the fact remains that all signs point to a brighter future under the leadership of Rick Scott.
Lenny Curry is the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.