Governor Scott discusses 2018 agenda, reflects on time in Tallahassee
In his eighth and final State of the State address, Governor Rick Scott reflected on a busy 2017 for Florida, described his legislative agenda in his final year, and spoke about his journey from the private sector to the Governor’s Mansion.
“I am thankful that in 2010, with the amazing support of my family, the people of Florida gave me the chance to turn our state around. This has been the most rewarding job.” The governor went on to talk about how his background enabled him to fight for businesses in a unique way.
“When I was in business, I would see politicians come and go and always make promises that they would be business-friendly, cut taxes and reduce regulations. And usually, it was all just talk. Nothing much ever happened.” Governor Scott laid this background out not to chide the career politicians that peppered his audience on Tuesday morning, but to set the background for a major legislative goal in 2018.
“I want 2018 to be the year that Florida voters pass a constitutional amendment that makes it harder for politicians to raise taxes. My proposal would require 2/3rds of the legislature to vote on a tax increase for it to become law. Some have asked if this proposal would be in effect during a financial emergency or another national recession, and my answer is clear – ABSOLUTELY.”
This measure would be at the center of a tax cut proposal that, according to Governor Scott, “will truly benefit every single Floridian.” The proposal also includes cutting the fees required to renew or obtain a driver’s license, and sales tax holidays “to help families prepare for the school year and hurricane season.”
The hurricane season of 2017 was fresh in Governor Scott’s mind as he prepared his remarks.
“Just when we thought we got through Irma, Maria was quickly approaching Puerto Rico. While we are so blessed Florida was spared, sadly our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico were devastated. Like many of you in this room, I have been focused on helping Puerto Rico recover and rebuild. I have visited Puerto Rico twice following the storm. I saw firsthand the devastation on the Island and I have tried to help the people of Puerto Rico any way I could. We have had hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans come to Florida since Maria and my goal is that Florida be the most welcoming place for people displaced by the storm. We have set up centers to help Puerto Ricans get connected to services and resources, made it easier for students to get enrolled in our schools and removed barriers for professional licenses so people can quickly get to work in our state.
But, there is still more we can do together to help Puerto Ricans displaced by the storm. This year, I am proposing $12 million in funding to establish the English Language Learners Academy. This program will focus on reading improvements and making sure students displaced by Hurricane Maria have access to important learning programs. And, I ask that you join me in supporting this important program this year.”
Law enforcement took center stage later in the speech, with the governor proposing a pay raise for “all state sworn officers”. Governor Scott then told stories of officers who were killed on duty. “I want to be very clear – in Florida we have zero tolerance for anyone who attacks our law enforcement officers and I will fight to make sure justice is swift and these killers are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
When talking about crime and victims, the address pivoted to sexual harrassment. Measures taken last year to better protect state employees from being so harrassed were touted, and the governor took a non-legislative tone when finishing his thoughts on the issue.
“Things have got to change, and it starts right here in this building. The people of Florida deserve better than what they are reading about in the news. We all must join together and send a very strong message: Florida stands with victims.”
Another major piece of legislation being pushed by the Governor’s office seeks to aid the fight against opioid abuse. “This year, I have proposed to invest $53 million to fight opioid abuse in Florida. I have also proposed legislation to prevent drug addiction on the front end, reduce the ability for dangerous drugs to spread in Florida’s communities, give vulnerable Floridians the support they need, and ensure law enforcement officers have resources to protect those impacted by opioids.“
The speech came amid speculation that Scott may choose to run for the US Senate seat up for election in Florida this year. Scott has not declared his intention to run as of yet, and his speech did not tip his hand one way or the other.