Florida governor wants tax cuts, laws to fight opioid crisis
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Gov. Rick Scott used his final State of the State speech Tuesday to push for tax cuts, reduced driver license fees, laws to fight the opioid crisis and protections for sexual misconduct victims.
Scott also called for a constitutional amendment to make it harder to raise taxes and for money to help Puerto Ricans who came to Florida after Hurricane Maria devastated their island.
Scott is leaving office in 12 months due to term limits and talked about how far the state has come since he took office in 2011.
“Working together, we’ve created an environment where our private sector has added nearly 1.5 million jobs ... our home values have skyrocketed, we’ve decreased state debt by $9 billion and our unemployment rate has gone from over 10 percent to now 3.6 percent,” Scott said. “Those are some great statistics, but this is not about statistics. It’s about real people.”
Scott said in his final year, he wants tax cuts aimed at helping consumers, including an expanded sales tax holiday on hurricane supplies. He also wants to reduce driver license fees from $48 to $20 for renewals and $48 to $27 for a new license.
Scott told lawmakers to support a proposal to change the constitution to require a two-thirds majority in the Legislature to raise taxes.
“It will force leaders to contemplate living within their means rather than taking the easy way out and just sticking it to the public by raising taxes on families and job creators,” Scott said. “I ask all of you to join me in this fight and ensure we do all we can to not let future politicians undo the hard work we have all done to grow Florida’s economy and create jobs,” Scott said.
Scott also called for a bill that would protect the identities of state workers who witness sexual harassment so they feel more comfortable helping investigators.
“The people of Florida deserve much better than what they are reading about in the news,” Scott said to extended applause. “It’s very important that we all stand together and send a very strong message — Florida stands with victims.”
Scott and lawmakers agree the state needs to address opioid abuse and he said he wants $53 million to address the crisis.
“I have also proposed legislation to prevent drug addiction on the front end, reduce the ability for dangerous drugs to spread in Florida’s communities, give vulnerable Floridians the support they need, and ensure law enforcement officers have resources to protect those impacted by opioids,” Scott said.
The speech was largely seen as a positive message as Scott prepares to leave office and considers a run for the U.S. Senate. But Democrats said Scott’s optimism over the economy is overstated.
“Obviously it’s only going to be a pretty picture that’s painted here today,” said Democratic state Rep. Evan Jenne. “You can make numbers dance and when you look at 1.5 million jobs. It looks good, but when you look at what people are actually making it’s not a good look.”
Republican House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who last year openly clashed with the governor, was effusive in his praise of Scott’s final speech.
“It was the best one he has ever given,” said Corcoran, who is considering running to replace Scott.
Scott concluded the speech by taking about his favorite topic: jobs.
“We must secure our future by making sure Florida remains the global destination for jobs,” Scott said. “We have a finite amount of time left in these positions. Let’s all fight together until our last minute in office to secure Florida’s future for every family.”
Associated Press writers Gary Fineout and Joe Reedy contributed to this report.