In final State of the State Address, Rick Scott talks #MeToo, jobs and a vegan bakery

Dems aren't all that impressed, believe it or not.

click to enlarge Scott gave his eighth and final State of the State Address Tuesday. Yes, his first one was only seven years ago. - Screenshot, The Florida Channel
Screenshot, The Florida Channel
Scott gave his eighth and final State of the State Address Tuesday. Yes, his first one was only seven years ago.

At Governor Rick Scott's annual State of the State Speech Tuesday morning, there were at least two things that stood out as something he would not have uttered in years past, especially during his first term.

First, as he greeted other top officials gathered at the Capitol, he praised Senate President Joe Negron for, of all things, his efforts toward environmental conservation, namely his support of a wetlands restoration project that could prevent Lake Okeechobee runoff from polluting seawater on either coast.

Later, in discussing the plight of Venezuelans fleeing political and social strife in their home country and coming to Florida, he mentioned a Venezuelan emigre who moved to Miami in 2011 and met the woman who eventually became his wife, with whom he "opened Bunnie Cakes, a vegan bakery that employs more than 20 Floridians."

Catch that? He uttered the word "vegan." Astonishing.

We've come a long way, Florida.

As a potential 2018 candidate for Senate, Scott appears to have moved more to the political center, and unlike House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who derided "sanctuary cities," a divisive (and dubious) phrase in the immigration debate and talked up a bill boosting school choice in the state (at the expense, of course, of public schools) in his opening speech, Scott was less polarizing. He talked about sexual harassment (namely, the push for a zero-tolerance policy at the Capitol), hurricane relief, the opioid epidemic and honoring the memory of fallen officers and other victims of crimes.

But even if his address wasn't exactly Trumpian, the speech was far from a bipartisan love fest.

Front and center, of course, was his work to grow jobs in Florida since he took office in 2011, after the recession eroded the state's job market.

Democrats have often railed against his efforts to cut corporate taxes, ostensibly to grow jobs, at the expense of social programs and environmental protections, among other things. Scott said Tuesday his administration grew over a million jobs and improved the lives of most Floridians.

"In 2010, when I ran for governor, I promised to change the status quo and create an environment where businesses can succeed and create jobs for Florida families," Scott said. "And the results speak for themselves: Working together, we’ve created an environment where our private sector has added nearly 1.5 million jobs; our GDP has grown 26 percent; home values have skyrocketed; we’ve decreased state debt by $9 billion; and our unemployment rate has dropped from over 10 percent when I took office to a more than 10-year low of 3.6 percent – even lower than the national rate."

He added that he cut taxes over 80 times and saved Floridians $7.5 billion.

His detractors, of course, argue that Scott has made things worse for working families by cutting public education and refusing to expand Medicaid. Terrie Rizzo, head of the Florida Democratic Party, said his portrayal of the state's economy was "rosy," but not reflective of reality.

“The reality is this: under Rick Scott and his self-serving agenda, Florida families in more than half the state have fewer jobs today than they did ten years ago, our children have had funding from public schools redirected to for-profit schools that pay Rick Scott millions in campaign contributions and working families pay more for health care," Rizzo said in an emailed statement. "Rick Scott’s Florida is one in which he continues to put himself, his donors and his billionaire friends first and Florida families are worse off for it.”

Some argue that there may have been job growth under Scott, but many of those jobs are low-wage and have brought down the average salary in Florida (which is true). And, as Rizzo mentioned, it's questionable whether there was really all that much job growth throughout the state since he took office. Even the Florida Chamber of Commerce found that most counties in the state have fewer jobs than they did ten years ago, so even if there was growth, it was uneven and wages actually shrank. 

“Each year Governor Scott offers the same promise to create jobs, but fails to see how low wages continue to limit Florida’s potential growth,” Westley Williams, a leader in the Fight for $15 movement and a Miramar McDonald’s worker, said in a written statement. “I’ve worked in the fast food industry for the past twenty years and while I am thankful that I have a job it isn’t enough. Families bringing home minimum wage are forced to work two and three jobs or they run the risk of homelessness and depending on taxpayer funded assistance. The key to a thriving economy is not to continue to reward already wealthy businesses with millions of dollars in tax breaks, but instead to invest the money into underpaid Floridians.” 

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