Florida Gov. Rick Scott sees his job as a highly competitive business proposition, with rivals like Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, and especially Rick Perry of Texas, as his competitors. ???Every survey, my goal is to beat Perry,??? he told the RedState Gathering in Jacksonville, Florida on Saturday.
He encouraged the audience to insist on governors in their own states who will eagerly join this contest to attract business investment and jobs. ???Here in Florida, we have no income tax, and we???re about to cut the business tax, which was a very small part of our budget,??? Scott said. ???You tell me how your state is going to compete.???
Scott is surprised that his notion of the proper relationship between government and the private sector ??? ???How can I help your business succeed???? ??? is considered unusual, much less controversial. Since so many other states are not governed that way, he???s been able to propel Florida to a position, confirmed by polls, as the second-best state in which to do business??? behind only his friendly rival Rick Perry and Texas.
Florida???s governor professed himself to be surprised at what the local and national media consider controversial. ???If you do conservative things in Florida, you get sued,??? he remarked, speaking with lively good humor, even though he???s not really joking.
An early battle along these lines came when Scott was sued for insisting on drug tests for welfare recipients, but the title card fight between Florida???s governor and the Obama Administration has concerned voter identification. ???I hope you all know that you have to be a U.S. citizen to vote in our state,??? he reminded the audience. Also, ???if you pass away, you don???t get to continue to vote.???
He said he was a bit surprised to find himself sued by the Justice Department over his effort to purge illegitimate voters from the rolls, but Florida???s victory over the Obama Justice Department has thus far been complete. The state fended off a legal challenge to its efforts at cleaning up voter registration, and won a court battle to gain access to the Department of Homeland Security???s immigration status database, which Scott reminded the audience was guaranteed to state governments under federal law.
He???s proud of his administration???s ability to halt Florida???s twenty-year history of billion-dollar state deficits, which last year became almost $500 million in debt reduction. He stood by his fiscal guns even under enormous pressure to accept federal offers of ???assistance??? to build a high-speed rail system, which would have mutated into a crushing financial burden on Florida. ???Anybody here from California? How???s that worked out???? Scott asked playfully, with their disastrous high-speed rail boondoggle in mind. He cheerfully suggested that rail enthusiasts visit DisneyWorld in Orlando and enjoy the trains that run between the parking lots and the attractions, instead of trying to lock Florida???s government into a billion-dollar financial death spiral.
Scott is also a dedicated crusader against excessive regulation, having eliminated around 1700 of them from Florida code thus far. ???Why do we think that everything in the world needs to be regulated???? he asked.
Instead of micro-managing the lives and business affairs of citizens, Scott believes government should ???do the right thing for families??? and focus on the three areas of greatest importance to them: education, jobs, and the lowest possible cost of living. He???s addressed education through merit pay for teachers, declaring that ???we???re going to keep the best teachers, and pay them better.??? A business-friendly environment has led to job growth in his state.
But Scott sees most of our current state and national governments as particularly bad about raising the cost of living for families. ???How many of you believe that with trillion-dollar deficits, taxes are ever going to come down???? he asked. He believes state governors can provide leadership for reducing this spiral of government over-spending followed by increasingly strident demands for more tax money, but ???we have to have a federal government that???s a partner, not a problem.???
It???s not hard to see which states have done the best job of providing small-government leadership and attracting investment, because people flock to such states. The changing number of representatives each state sends to the House of Representatives, adjusted by census, is a scorecard for the great national competition that Rick Scott relishes. ???If you do the right things, your state will get bigger,??? he observed. Florida is growing, but he won???t be satisfied until it???s growing faster than Texas.