And you thought Matthew McConaughey was a bit immodest in his speech after taking home Best Actor at the Oscars?
Florida Governor Rick Scott kicked off the 2014 Legislative session this morning with his annual State of the State address
which featured some major boasting about his accomplishments over the past three years. It was written to strongly contrast his record with what was happening in the Sunshine State before he arrived to save the day; of course, that was when Florida was melting through the subprime mortgage crisis, which segued into the worst recession in the U.S. since the Great Depression.
Those were the days of Charlie Crist leading Florida, of course. Though Scott never mentioned Crist by name, the former (and possibly future) governor was clearly on his mind today.
"Like Washington, Florida’s economy was driven into the ground by spending what some embraced as 'free money,'" Scott said, referring to the stimulus package from President Obama passed by the Democratic Congress back in 2009. "Of course, there is no such thing," he continued, blasting his probable 2014 challenger.
"Florida’s big spending racked up big debt. Florida was in a hole. Unemployment was above 11 percent. More than one million people were unemployed and our debt ballooned to more than $28 billion ... the year was 2010. Some say these statistics were all because of a global recession. They say it doesn't matter who was running our state — that anyone would have been just a victim of the times."
And later on, there was this:
"Let’s be honest about it — we inherited a terrible mess ... Growing unemployment. Dangerous levels of debt. Growing deficits. And a crippled housing market.
"We had two options — we could take the usual way out by raising taxes and running up more debt … or we could do the politically hard thing and trim our budget.
"When the hard thing is the right thing, we need the courage to do the hard thing.
"And we did."
Scott mentioned some of his favorite ideas going into the session, like his plan to cut driver registration fees by $400 million and his proposal to get rid of the 15 percent annual increase and inflationary increase on tuition in state universities. Left unmentioned was the proposal backed by House Speaker Will Weatherford and Clearwater Senator Jack Latvala that would allow children of undocumented immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition rates. Scott has said he has been "studying" that issue.
The reviews from some of Governor Scott's antagonists were as equally critical of him as Scott was of his predecessor.
House Minority Leader Perry Thurston reminded Floridians in his official rebuttal remarks that Scott said nothing about the proposal in the Legislature to raise Florida's minimum wage from $7.93 an hour to $10.10. And he also said that Democrats agree with the governor on his proposal to cut a fee to renewing a car registration by a total of $400 million. "But unlike Governor Scott, we didn’t think the idea of repealing those consumer costs should have to wait until an election year like this one," he said.
“To hear Gov. Scott’s election year State of the State address, one would think that there are no problems in Florida. In fact, human rights have been eroded, and many of the basic systems of government that should protect Floridians are in a state of disrepair," said Florida ACLU head Howard Simon.
“Our civil rights system is broken, leaving nearly one and half million Floridians shut out of our democracy by our state’s Jim Crow-era lifetime voting bans," Simon said. "Our criminal justice system is broken, as drug enforcement and sentencing policies based on fear instead of facts have delivered devastating blows, mostly to our state’s communities of color. Our juvenile justice system is broken, with young people being funneled out of their classrooms and into jails, which all too often treat them like hardened adults without regard for the psychological damage caused, for example, by the use of solitary confinement. Our election system is broken, with Floridians’ right to make their voice heard too frequently subject to politically motivated restrictions designed to shut out those whose voices threaten those in power."
“The governor touts a historic education budget, but our per-pupil spending is not yet back to where it was when he took office," said Florida Education Association President Andy Ford. "He’s happy to promote 24 tax breaks during his term of office and seek $500 million more this year, yet most Floridians haven’t seen tax relief; they’ve seen a state government that pushes its obligations on local government while easing the obligation of corporations. His budget proposal is totally inadequate to meet the needs of our state, particularly in bolstering all aspects of public education. The governor acknowledges the effectiveness of our public school teachers, yet he won’t listen to those teachers when they tell him his approach to testing and evaluations is all wrong."