Gov. Rick Scott's "It's Working" State of the State speech

5:39 PM, Mar 5, 2013   |    comments
Florida Gov. Rick Scott gives his annual State of the State address, March 5 2013.
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Tallahassee, Florida -- Gov. Rick Scott says his efforts to turn around Florida's economy are working.

That was theme of his third State of the State address as state lawmakers started their 60-day legislative session on Tuesday.

Scott repeated that phrase throughout his speech.

On policies to create new jobs: it's working.

On cutting taxes and paying down debt: it's working.

On improving Florida's education system: it's working.

The governor repeated his two main goals for the legislative session: eliminating sales taxes on manufacturing equipment and giving all teachers a $2,500 raise.

He recognized Tampa teacher Elizabeth Heli for her decision to leave her career as an engineer to become a science teacher. Heli appreciated the recognition.

"It was a fantastic honor to be here today. There are so many great teachers in the state. For me to be the one here representing all of them and to be able to say thank you to the governor is fantastic."

Scott also touted a dropping unemployment rate, a stronger housing market and new private sector jobs.

"Our economy has created around 200,000 new private sector jobs in the last two years, meaning that thousands of Florida families now have the opportunity to pursue their dreams. It's working."

"Together, we faced these challenges head on. We cut taxes. We eliminated thousands of regulations on job creators. We paid down state debt for two years in a row. We invested in priorities - like education. And now our economy is on the rebound. It's working."

Gov. Scott reiterated his support for an expansion of Medicaid to cover an extra million uninsured Floridians. His surprising support for the Medicaid expansion has riled conservatives and it showed in the chamber.

Most Republicans did not react to the statement, while Democrats sprang to their feet and cheered.

Scott said as he wrestled with that decision, he thought about his mother, who died last November, and her struggles to get health care for his little brother 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."

Getting the House to go along with the Medicaid expansion is a very long shot right now.

House Speaker Will Weatherford is adamantly opposed to it. Rep. Mike Fasano. R-New Port Richey, is one of the few Republicans in the House to disagree with Weatherford and support an expansion of Medicaid.

Fasano calls the decision on Medicaid an opportunity to offer health coverage to many Floridians who don't have access to primary care.

"We're a donor state. We have an opportunity to get money back that is owed to us from the federal government. Let's take it. Let's use it. Let's help those who don't have access to health care or have no ability to afford health care insurance."

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