Lake City —
Florida Governor Rick Scott made a stop at Florida Gateway College in Lake City on Tuesday, Dec. 17, and was greeted by a huge crowd of supporters from the Republican Party of Florida.
Sponsors paid $500-$1,500 to attend the luncheon and listen to Gov. Scott speak about the state of the economy in Florida. Many local dignitaries and elected officials were in attendance, including State Rep. District 10 Elizabeth Porter, State Rep. District 19 Charles E. Van Zant, Avery Roberts and retired Judge E. Vernon Douglas.
Decorated Eagle Scout Jeremy Barwick, best known for raising 38,000 tons of food for the needy, led the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem was sung by Kay Poltorak.
While everyone enjoyed the delicious food that was prepared for the group, Rep. Elizabeth Porter spoke for a couple minutes.
“When you look around at the entire country, across the nation, and you see how backwards some of the states are marching, and they just have the wrong idea,” said Porter. “They’re going in the wrong direction, but what we are doing here in the state of Florida, is moving in the right direction. So much of that is thanks to our governor and the support he gets in the House and Senate to advance the kind of business building, freedom building ideas that we try and he supports.”
Porter said the Republican Party of Florida also wants to support Gov. Scott’s ideas, as well.
“We don’t want to be like New York and we don’t want to be like California,” said Porter. “We don’t want to try and squash the business people that are the job creators in our country. We want to do exactly what we’ve been doing in Florida for the past 4-6 years, and that is giving our business people the freedom to grow their business so that they will hire more people. They’ll have jobs. They’ll have expendable income and we will be able to continue to improve across the state, from top to bottom.”
Porter said Gov. Scott has been a boon to the state and she is confident he will continue to do so.
Brief speeches were made by Rep. Van Zant and Judge Douglas, who asked everyone to welcome “a political leader who’s restoring the ‘American Dream’ which seems to be lost on the rest of the country.”
Gov. Scott entered the room to a raucous round of applause as he stepped up to the podium. He proceeded to tell the crowd a little about his childhood before moving on to the important issues of the state of Florida.
Scott said in 2010, 832,000 people in the state of Florida lost their jobs and unemployment hit a peak of 11.1 percent.
“We basically increased state debt by $8.7 billion,” Scott said. “What did we get for it? Housing prices collapsed by 40 percent. Whatever business you were in, you were pretty much hurting in Florida.”
Scott reminded everyone that there is no state income tax in Florida, it is a right-to-work state where you don’t have to be a member of a union, there are low business taxes, it is the gateway to Latin America, and the expansion of the Panama Canal is coming up.
“People like to visit our state,” said Scott. “In 2010, 82 million tourists came to our state. How did we do it? Because we didn’t focus on jobs.”
When he first got elected, Scott said he contacted several consulting firms whose job it is to find suitable places for businesses to operate and was met with resistance. Many of them told Scott that Florida doesn’t care about businesses, but only about being the state where people either vacation or retire. Calls to Tallahassee from businesses who wanted to come to Florida, he was told, were not addressed in a timely manner. Scott said he set out to change all of that.
Scott said anyone who works for a state agency has the duty to help create more jobs for the people of Florida in any way possible. He has also been cutting sales taxes, property taxes, and regulations to make it easier for new businesses to come in.
Scott’s speech wasn’t all business. He spent some time telling anecdotes about Gov. Rick Perry in Texas, which engaged the crowd with laughter, but then it was back to business.
“In two years and 10 months, unemployment has gone from 11.1 to 6.7 percent,” said Scott. “That’s 440,000 jobs.”
For the month of October, Florida private businesses generated 46,000 jobs, compared to Texas with only 12,000 jobs, Scott explained. Additionally, this year Florida expects to have a total of about 95 million tourists (up from 82 million), whom, he said, pay a lot of sales taxes.
“So, we’ve increased our state revenue that way,” he said.
Since he’s been in office, Scott said the state has lowered their unemployment rate, paid off a $3.5 billion unemployment debt to the federal government, and there are currently 279,000 job openings in the state right now.
“We’re headed in the right direction,” said Scott.
Education was another topic Scott touched on, saying that the state has increased funding for education, and that Florida’s 4th graders are number 2 in the world for reading, as well as other facts about graduation rates, teacher quality and Florida’s excellent colleges.
After all the business talk, Scott said, “The year 2014 is a bad year to run for governor, but this is a great job. No one else should run,” he added. “That would be nice. The truth is, if you like people, there is no better job than being governor of the state.”
After the meeting, Scott spent some time mingling with the guests.