TALLAHASSEE, Florida -- Gov. Rick Scott, weighed down by
lackluster poll numbers and a Republican Legislature intent on pursuing
its own contentious reforms, appears content to keep it simple as he
heads into the 2014 session.
he will ask voters to re-elect him, Scott is choosing to push ahead
with a limited agenda that sidesteps ongoing debates on hot-button
issues such as expanding Medicaid or opening the door to casinos.
pitch to legislators this year centers primarily on tax cuts and
increasing spending in key areas such as hiring more child protection
workers or boosting the amount of money spent on Everglades restoration.
"My goal is 'Let's get money back into Florida families hands; let's continue to build our economy,' " Scott said.
GOP governor wants to use a projected budget surplus to pay for nearly
$600 million in tax cuts, including a rollback in auto registration fees
enacted under former Gov. Charlie Crist five years ago. Crist is
challenging Scott in the governor's race.
also wants legislators to revive a sales tax holiday for hurricane
supplies as well as expand the back-to-school sales tax holiday from
its current three days to 10 days.
But Scott also has a long list of ideas for the other side of the ledger as well.
wants to boost state spending on tourism marketing by nearly 60 percent
in an effort to attract 100 million tourists next year. Scott has
proposed raising public school spending by nearly 3 percent for each
student, although part of the increased money relies on a rise in local
is backing a proposal from his child welfare agency to hire more than
400 child protection investigators to reduce caseloads for those who
investigate child abuse allegations. Scott has recommended boosting
spending on environmental programs, including $130 million for
Everglades restoration and $55 million to help restore and improve water
quality at the state's freshwater springs.
Scott first came into office in 2011, he pushed for large spending cuts
and tax cuts, while advocating proposals to drug-test welfare
recipients and passage of an Arizona-styled measure on immigration.
Although the governor's moves won support from his tea party base,
poll after poll in the past three years has shown a majority of
Floridians don't approve of the job he's doing. The most recent poll
found that a majority also don't consider him worthy of a second term.
Republican legislative leaders insist Scott is remaining consistent with his longstanding pledge to cut taxes.
message has been the same," House Speaker Will Weatherford said. "Tax
cuts have been a hallmark of his tenure, even in times when we didn't
have a lot of money. I think a half-a-billion tax cut is pretty
leaders already have said they are willing to go along with many of
Scott's top priorities, including a push by the governor to keep college
tuition levels flat this year.
But Democrats view the governor's scaled-back agenda as proof that he is worried about his re-election campaign.
"Scott has become the person he ran against," said Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach. "He has become an actual politician."
year, Scott had a modest agenda as well, but on the eve of the annual
legislative session he came out in favor of expanding Medicaid to draw
down federal dollars available under President Barack Obama's health
care overhaul. At the time he called it a "compassionate, common-sense
support, however, did not translate into action. State Senate leaders
crafted a compromise that would draw down more than $50 billion in
federal funds and give it to residents so they could buy private
insurance. But the House did not want to take any funds tied to the
Affordable Care Act.
This year, Scott has returned to some of the same stinging criticisms of the health care overhaul he has made previously.
Stipanovich, a longtime Tallahassee lobbyist who was a chief of staff
for one governor and helped lead one of Jeb Bush's campaigns, said it
makes sense for Scott to pursue a limited agenda.
the policy front, the governor is betwixt and between," Stipanovich
said. "He isn't in good enough shape politically to be able swing for
the fences with impunity, and he isn't in bad enough shape to have to
swing for the fences out of desperation."
added that GOP legislative leaders are cooperative, but they have
"ambitions of their own" and they could thwart any major policy
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