In his weakest position as governor since he was elected 3 1/2 years ago, Charlie Crist delivered his final State of the State address in Tallahassee this evening.
In his 45-minute address, perhaps the most interesting moments came when he addressed his acceptance of the federal stimulus money, which he proudly mentioned, while knocking critics (like governors Mark Sanford and Sarah Palin, who made headlines criticizing the dinero, but ultimately took it), and of course, implicitly giving a screw-you to his Senate challenger, Marco Rubio. The governor said:
"but you should know that almost $300 billion of it was in the form of tax cuts to families and businesses.
The remaining money was apportioned to the states. A few governors may have rather loudly condemned the stimulus money, but that did not stop them from quietly accepting it.
Bear in mind that Floridians, who as a group represent a significant part of the American tax-paying public, will be paying for part of the stimulus package. It only follows that if we are paying for it, we should have the advantage of receiving it.
So, given our budget shortfalls and given that Floridians were paying for part of the stimulus package, doesnt it make sense to spend our energies maximizing the benefit of that package? Isnt it our duty to advocate for Florida to receive its fair share? Isnt that more helpful to Floridians than engaging in hollow ideological posturing that achieves nothing?"
Democrats like Al Lawson and Frederica Wilson could be seen standing and cheering, while the camera panned to Senator Mike Haridopolos, looking dour, as were many Republicans at that time.
Crist employed the most fanciful language that we can recall him using in such a high profile speech. Arguably, the ship metaphor was a bit excessive. You don't think so? Check out this soaring (purple) prose.
The adversity we have faced reveals the character of our people and makes us stronger. Shakespeare noted with more than a little irony that when the sea was calm, all boats alike showd mastership in floating. Today we face a far more difficult test and will be judged by the mastership we show while the sea roils around us.
I have a fishing boat I named Freedom, and in it, I have spent many wonderful days on our beautiful Gulf and my beloved Tampa Bay. I know from experience that storms often come from nowhere. What begins as a tiny shift in the wind can in a matter of minutes be a squall that sends waves crashing over the gunwale. The real test of a captain is how he guides his boat through the fury of a storm.
- To bring the ship of our Florida safely back to harbor requires action, not rhetoric. It requires knowledge, not conjecture. And it requires composure under pressure that believes in a fairer shore somewhere beyond the dark clouds and a belief we will return home safely.
Speaking of purple, the guv was wearing a purple tie, perhaps wanting to emphasize his moderate brand?
Crist appeared to get a bit carried away discussing education, saying at one point that "our graduation rate is at the highest point ever," prompting Democratic State Senator and Attorney General candidate Dan Gelber to tweet, "FL continues to have one of the nation's worst HS graduation rates. CC cannot spin our total failure to prepare our kids for college and WF(work force")
Crist fleshed out other parts of his economic plan that has already been announced in the past few weeks. It was strong on the environment, another former staple of the Crist brand that suddenly evaporated when Rubio first started nipping at his heels last summer. Crist announced $50 for Everglades restoration and $50 million to restart the Florida Forever land preservation program.
And perhaps a reflection on how much of the public believes government is broken, he spoke at the beginning and end of his speech that legislators should govern for the people to get results, and not get hung up so much on politics. He closed by saying:
This year, more than others, our achievements will be measured not by the passion of our rhetoric but by our ability to be problem solvers and guide the ship of our state through the economic storm we are facing. I have absolute confidence in the wisdom of the House and Senate, in each of you here today. I love Florida as I know you do and together we can do great things for our people.
He's your governor, Floridians, for the next 10 months, whatever happens in November or August. Whether the legislature took anything he said seriously, well, that's debatable. We all know he's never been beloved by his colleagues in Tallahassee. Now, on to the legislative session.