Florida Matters: Highlights Of 2016 State Of The State
Gov. Rick Scott kicked off the 2016 Florida legislative session Tuesday morning with his annual State of the State address. This week on Florida Matters (Tuesday, Jan. 12 at 6:30 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 17 7:30 a.m.), we will bring you highlights of Scott’s address, along with part of the Democratic response.
Scott is pushing lawmakers to pass $1 billion in tax cuts and to create a $250 million enterprise fund to help expand Florida businesses. That was the focus of his speech, as he boasted that the state has created more than 1 million jobs since he took office five years ago.
Dr. Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa, told WUSF News that there were few surprises in the governor’s speech.
"The governor's speech was something that's very much in sync with Republican ideals,” she said. “Smaller government, lower taxes, diversify the economy, continued growth, highlighting the successful entrepreneurship of Floridians and challenging the Legislature to keep it going."
Scott featured several successful Florida businesses in the speech, including a million-dollar company started by a 13-year-old Boca Raton girl.
The speech came as the Legislature began its 60-day session. After pressing lawmakers to pass his tax package, Scott will leave Wednesday on a statewide bus tour to promote his proposals.
“Now, we face the mighty task of keeping job creation going strong. Now, we must set our sights higher to make sure we do not fall back,” Scott said. “Now, we must be dedicated to making Florida not second to Texas, but first in the nation for job growth for years to come.”
State Rep. Mark Pafford, D- West Palm Beach, and state Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, delivered the Democratic response.
Joyner questioned if Scott has really delivered on his promise to create more jobs.
"If you live in Scott world, his Florida of mansions and yachts and private jets, yes, he most certainly has,” she said.
According to Joyner, many Floridians are still waiting for good jobs. She says most of the jobs Scott is taking credit for – and used tax-payer dollars to help bring to Florida -- are low-paying and have few benefits.
Lawmakers are expected over the next few weeks to grapple with everything from guns to gambling.
Last year, they clashed on state spending and Medicaid expansion. The disagreement sent the regular session screeching to halt, and lawmakers had to return for a special session to pass a balanced budget.
House Speaker Steve Crisafulli and Senate President Gardiner pledged this year to work together. They both promised to pass several bills they worked on in 2015, including a comprehensive bill dealing with water and measures helping children with developmental disabilities.
Crisafulli also said the House would come up with own $1 billion tax cut package. Gardiner promised tax cuts, but did not commit to a specific amount.