TAMPA (CBSMiami/AP) —Florida Gov. Rick Scott pledged Thursday to spend $1 billion upgrading the state’s ports over his two terms in office if he is re-elected.
Gov. Scott made the announcement with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at his side in Tampa.
Speaking at Port Tampa Bay to about 50 hard-hatted port employees, Scott made a campaign speech that called for dredging the port’s channels and improving its container yard and petroleum facility.
“It’s all about jobs for our families,” Scott said.
The projects would create 525 construction jobs, retain 2,500 existing ones and potentially create an additional 1,400, Scott said. He said the state has already spent more than $640 million onFlorida’s ports since he took office in 2011.
The port plan is the first of several political initiatives Scott plans to announce as he works on his re-election campaign.
Christie, chairman of the Republican Governors Association and a possible 2016 presidential candidate, vowed to come to Florida as much as Scott feels is necessary to help him win re-election.
Scott and Christie took turns taking shots at former Gov. Charlie Crist, who was elected as a Republican in 2006 but is now seeking the Democratic nomination to challenge Scott.
“Unlike other races across the country, you have a clear choice,” Christie said. “You’ve seen what happened when Crist was in office.”
Scott blames Crist for the state’s economic downturn, which saw unemployment rise from 3.5 percent when he took office in January 2007 to 11.1 percent when he left office four years later — about 2 percentage points above the national average. The state’s latest unemployment rate of 6.2 percent is just below the national average.
Crist campaign spokesman Kevin Cate issued a statement Thursday criticizing Scott’s “desperate attacks,” pointing out that the state’s unemployment rate had started to fall during Crist’s final months in office.
“Florida’s economic recovery began under Charlie Crist because he had the right priorities — education, the middle class, and saving the jobs of first responders,” Cate said.
Cate also noted that after Scott was elected that he proposed a budget that would cut education by $4.8 billion over two years “so he could give tax breaks to his corporate contributors.”
“Because Rick Scott only cares about handouts for his friends, our economy has lost jobs that would have been created through high-speed rail, expanding access to affordable care, and investing in education,” Cate added.
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