Reporting Tim Kephart
Legislative Session Coverage
TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami) – Governor Rick Scott went before a joint legislative session for the third time in office to deliver the State of the State address with what he described as one simple message, “it’s working.”
“Two year ago, we knew we had been called here to make the difficult choices to help Florida families get back to work,” Governor Scott said in his speech. “Together, we faced these challenges head on…Because we made the hard choices over the last two years; we are able to make the smart choices to keep our economy growing this year.”
Scott said the legislature should be focused on a simple formula this session: “We must invest in our education system, support our teachers, and cut taxes to help create more jobs.”
“The best way we can build on this progress is to reward our hard-working teachers with a $2,500 pay raise,” Scott said. “Some say they are afraid that giving raises to all teachers may mean that a teacher doing a bad job gets rewarded. We don’t want a war on teachers; we want a war on failure.”
Scott pitched a budget that he said would increase K-12 funding by more than $1.2 billion. “Our total education investment of $10.7 billion in state funding K-12 schools this year is the highest state funding level in Florida history,” Scott said.
Scott said that he wants to do away with yet another tax, this time the sales tax on manufacturing equipment. Scott said removing the tax would “level the playing field to compete for manufacturing jobs.”
“This year, we are also proposing that we continue to roll back the business tax by exempting 2,000 more small businesses from having to pay it,” Scott said. “If we are successful this year, we will have removed the business tax from 70 percent of businesses since taking office. I am committed to getting rid of this tax entirely. That means more jobs for Florida families.”
Scott said his budget will increase operating funds for Florida state colleges by more than $70 million and increase funding for Florida universities by more than $390 million. Scott also said the budget increases funding for persons with disabilities by $36 million.
“Here in Florida, our work to reduce spending and cut taxes – along with making critical investments in priorities, like education – is working,” Scott said. “We didn’t win every battle over the last two years. After a long fight, we lost in the Supreme Court over the President’s healthcare law, and we lost a presidential election along with the promise of the law’s full repeal.”
“Now, our options are either having Floridians pay to fund this program in other states while denying healthcare to our citizens – or – using federal funding to help some of the poorest in our state with the Medicaid program as we explore other healthcare improvements,” Scott continued. “As I wrestled with this decision, I thought about my Mom and her struggles to get my little brother the care he needed with very little money. I concluded that for the three years the federal government is committed to paying 100 percent of the cost of new people in Medicaid, I cannot, in good conscience, deny the uninsured access to care.”
Still, the Florida legislature, which has a GOP supermajority is not keen to expand Medicaid because of the cost and because it would give President Barack Obama a political win.