Gov. Rick Scott touted his pro-business credentials to the Argus Foundation at a Longboat Key luncheon today, June 8, discussing his K-12 and higher education policies, as well as his administration’s changes to the state’s unemployment system.
The Longboat Key Club & Resort was filled with influential business leaders, reflecting Argus’ stature as “a monitoring liaison between city, county, state and federal governments.” The pastor who delivered the event’s blessing called those in the room the area’s “movers and shakers” and “the ones in charge.”
Sarasota County Commissioners Jon Thaxton, Christine Robinson and Carolyn Mason were on hand, as were School Board member Frank Kovach and City Commissioner Terry Turner. State Sen. Mike Bennett attended, as did state Reps. Bill Galvano and Greg Steube. Longboat Key Vice Mayor Dave Brenner presented a proclamation to Scott, “unofficially” naming the day after the governor.
In his speech, Scott touted some of his K-12 education achievements: eliminating tenure, enacting “merit pay” and making “it easier to open up successful charter schools.”
On higher education, Scott said, “We gotta run that like a business” and “create an environment” that allows citizens “to get a better education to get a job.” There’s “no other purpose” for higher education than to land a good job, he said.
He also called for the state to continue slashing regulations. “We have more responsibility to create an environment in this country and this state so people can build successful businesses,” he said, blaming the federal government for “passing laws and rules and regulations that raise our cost of living.”
Despite criticizing federal spending, Scott emphasized the importance of military money to Florida’s economy, saying state leaders need to ensure that Florida remains a “military-friendly” state.
But Scott’s larger goal was to take credit for the state’s declining unemployment rate, saying changes made to the unemployment system are helping laid-off Floridians re-enter the workforce. (Cutting benefits for the unemployed has been a major priority for state Sen. Nancy Detert and state Rep. Doug Holder — both local Republicans.) Scott cited numbers showing that fewer Floridians are signing up for unemployment assistance, saying, “We’re focused on re-employment, not making sure everybody goes on unemployment.”
At a small press gaggle after the event, Scott was asked about a new report showing that much of Florida’s drop in unemployment can be credited to Floridians leaving the workforce. Scott shrugged off the criticism, saying the state bases its information on data provided by the federal government. “Those are federal numbers,” he said.