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Thursday, Oct 30, 2014

Scott takes credit for economic boost in speech to Pinellas Republicans

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ST. PETERSBURG -

Florida Gov. Rick Scott told Pinellas County Republicans at a fundraising dinner Saturday his administration has improved the state’s economy.

Telling the crowd he has cut taxes and regulations and instituted a pro-business attitude in government, he said, “When you do all these things, does it work? You’d better believe it works.”

“We’ve gone from losing all those jobs to … the second biggest drop in unemployment in the country.

“Even the president gets in on this. I think he’s coming down to Florida next week to brag about how well we’re doing. I’m sure he’ll give us credit.”

President Obama will come to Miami on Friday for an event on the economy; no details have been released.

Scott also spoke about his two top priorities for the current legislative session: eliminating the state sales tax on manufacturing equipment and increasing education funding, including an across-the-board, $2,500 annual pay increase for teachers.

The crowd loved Scott’s talk on the economy, but seemed to grumble when he spoke about the teacher pay raise, which also has generated objections in the Legislature.

“Think about your life,” he said. “Did you have a favorite teacher? Did they change your life? Absolutely.”

Asked about it afterward by reporters, Scott said, “I think there’s a lot of support across the state.” Citing statistics about the improving quality of public education, he said, “The right thing to do is take care of our teachers. They’re doing a good job.”

Pinellas County Republican Party Chairman Michael Guju said later he wasn’t sure if the crowd was booing – “It’s tough to judge an audience noise.”

But, he added, “I don’t think we have a governor who sticks his finger in the wind. … We have a governor who’s willing to make the tough decisions.”

Guju said the event, the county party’s annual Lincoln Day fundraising dinner, drew about 440 attendees at $115 each, or more for VIP admissions. He said he hopes the event produces a net $100,000 for the local party.

Scott drew plenty of applause but not the wild enthusiasm partisan crowds sometimes give their electoral heroes. Guju described the reception as “warm but not over the top.”

Likely previewing his 2014 re-election campaign, Scott compared the last two years of his administration to the four years before, saying the state is recovering from economic collapse.

Asked whether he or the Obama administration deserves the credit, he said, “As Ronald Reagan said, you get so much more done if you don’t worry about who gets the credit.”

Asked how voters should decide, he said, “I’m just glad it’s all improving.”

But he told the crowd, “We’re doing the right thing. And guess what, the housing market’s coming back.”

The speech follows a week of bad news for Scott and Republicans from polls showing Scott losing by double-digits to potential challengers including former Gov. Charlie Crist and Alex Sink of Tampa, and Hillary Clinton outpolling former Gov. Jeb Bush and Sen. Marco among Florida voters in presidential matchups.

Citing favorable polling figures on Clinton, WFLA talk radio host Mark Larsen, emceeing the dinner, said, “If you’d like to join me, I’ll be on top of the Skyway Bridge about 9:45.”


wmarch@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7761

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