Every four years Floridians elect a governor and Cabinet. This past November all the individuals serving in those positions were re-elected — a fairly rare occurrence. And even though they will continue to serve in their current posts, they each get sworn in for their new terms.
I suspect that outside the usual cast of political operatives and friends and families of those elected officials, very few Florida citizens tune in to see the festivities. As a recovering politician, I excitedly tuned in to the swearing-in ceremony hoping to be inspired.
After Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam were duly sworn in, the governor gave his prepared remarks.
Scott has a fresh slate, a drastically improved economy, increased revenues and a Legislature and Cabinet totally controlled by his own party to work with. The conditions are ripe for an aggressive, exciting agenda. If ever a governor had the opportunity to think big and bold, it’s now under these favorable circumstances.
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Ready for his exciting proposals, I grabbed paper and pen to take notes.
After the customary thank-you’s, he struck a high note with a unifying message that the campaign was over and now we must all focus on governing and serving all the people of Florida. I say Amen to that!
He went on to say that, “We should not let partisan politics, or any politics, get in our way.” Again, Amen!
Then he got my hopes up by declaring that we would embark on an incredible mission together, for the benefit of Florida families. So far, so good! I’m in. What’s the plan? I’m ready for an incredible journey. I love this new tone.
Then just as quickly it was all gone. He was back to campaign rhetoric and exaggerated claims.
Scott again declared that he had exceeded his “ambitious” goal of creating 700,000 jobs, which belies media clips of him saying the 700,000 was on top of normal growth totaling 1.7 million jobs.
Let me be clear. Scott has actively recruited businesses and offered generous incentives. He certainly deserves some credit, but moving the goalpost closer and calling it ambitious continues to hurt his credibility.
Job growth occurs when businesses start or expand to meet a demand for goods and services. Markets, not governments, create jobs. People, not governments, create jobs. Healthy economies, not incentives, create long-term jobs.
A good portion of Scott’s comments stated the obvious: Jobs are good, jobs help families, taxes are bad, and people move to Florida from other states.
When are we going to get to the incredible journey part?
Perhaps the journey refers to traveling to other states to lure businesses to Florida. Even if successful, what would prevent the company from moving again once our incentives run out and a new suitor comes to call?
Here’s an idea: Why don’t we try to start or grow our own businesses here instead of raiding other states?
Scott then expressed the need to invest in infrastructure and the environment. He wants to spend $25 billion over five years for our roadways and $1 billion over 10 years to restore our springs and help develop water supplies. While I’m all for infrastructure, that seems a little uneven. Did he forget that voters overwhelmingly passed Amendment 1 demanding the state spend billions to protect and manage our natural resources?
Looking down at my notes, there wasn’t much new there: Beat Texas in job growth, take jobs from New York and California, cut taxes, spend more on education, roads and ports and keep higher education affordable. How is that different from his first term?
Look, I want Scott to be successful — it’s what’s best for our state — but this speech, in a word, was uninspiring. Fortunately, very few heard it.
Scott has two months before his state of the state speech, in which he lays out his agenda. I hope between now and then he will navigate a new path for this “incredible journey” with some help from his legislative partners. My suggestion: They should expand the passenger list to include the working poor and the middle class.
Paula Dockery is a syndicated columnist who served in the Florida Legislature for 16 years as a Republican from Lakeland.