It was no surprise that Gov. Rick Scott’s second inaugural address Tuesday focused on cutting taxes and creating jobs. After all, the governor was re-elected largely due to his commitment to bringing new jobs and enterprises to Florida. And he can take justified pride in Florida’s rebounding economy and business friendly reputation.
“Every job,” the governor said, “transforms a family” — a truth that was underscored by the brief but effective presentations earlier in the inauguration ceremonies by citizens who had recently found jobs.
But if Scott’s “mission” to create jobs and economic prosperity has not changed over the past four years, it seems to us he is approaching the task with a greater appreciation for Florida’s other needs and challenges.
Longtime Floridians, who witnessed how rapid growth and poor planning made a mess of the state, might have been unsettled when, during his speech, Scott urged the people of New York, Illinois, California, Pennsylvania and others to “move to Florida!”
Yet, unlike his first inauguration speech, the governor indicated he also knew it was important to ensure Florida — which has some of the worst traffic congestion in the nation, as well as chronic water shortages and pollution — remains a state worth moving to.
He promised $25 billion in road work over the next five years and to invest $1 billion over the next 10 years to restore natural springs and develop water supplies.
That may not be enough, given the state’s backlog of costly needs, but it shows a far greater concern for protecting the state’s quality of life than Scott exhibited when he first took office and quickly slashed environmental protections.
Scott seemed sincere when he said, “I realized that all candidates for public office talk about how important the environment is to the health of our people and our state. But talk is cheap. We have to make the investments necessary to turn talk into reality.”
Often an awkward speaker, the governor seemed more relaxed and confident than usual. He stressed a strong education system is essential to a growing economy and pledged to increase per-pupil spending in public schools and make sure higher education is accessible and affordable.
Scott, understandably, focused on the positive and didn’t dwell on the state’s problems. His passion always will be creating jobs. That’s what the former hospital executive knows best.
He knows that private enterprise, not government, drives economic growth, so he promises more tax cuts.
Money that doesn’t go into government coffers is money that can be used to expand businesses — or meet family needs.
As he aptly summarized: “Florida is getting strong each year because we are dreaming of more opportunities for our families — not more roles for government red tape.”
It may have been a stretch for Scott to promise to eventually pass Texas as the nation’s top job creator (former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who was in the audience, good-naturedly showed his skepticism.)
But Scott showed he can make a compelling sales pitch to businesses in other states: “We want you to keep more of the money you make because we understand it’s your money. We want your businesses to grow and succeed. We want to compete globally and win ... In Florida, we are in the business of growing opportunity for families, not growing government.”
On Tuesday Scott gave a demonstration of the single-minded purpose and determination that has caused Florida voters to entrust him with another four years in office.