Scott: Explaining yourself can be tough
Scribbles in my notebook after Gov. Rick Scott spent 45 minutes on CSPAN's Washington Journal this morning.
1.) Gov. Rick Scott heard straight from the mouths of several Floridians this morning as CSPAN devoted most of their segment with him to questions from callers and tweeters.
The callers ran the gamut from folks like Republican John in Sebring who praised Scott but accused CSPAN of hanging on up people who want to talk about "illegal aliens." "Governor, you’re doing an excellent job," he said. "And I’m glad you passed that drug test. I think that they ought to make sure that those people are not living in this house (sic) if they keep continuing to get the welfare."
On the other side of the spectrum was Democrat Mercedes from Ormond Beach, who was not happy about the cuts to state salaries and services that Scott pushed for and received, telling Scott, "You’re cutting all the people in this state who matter, not your millionaire friends." She added, "By far he is the worst governor that has ever been in the state of Florida."
2.) Scott handled Mercedes like he did most callers, turning the conversation back to job creation and his belief that the way to create jobs is with tax breaks and incentives for businesses.
"Being the governor, you've got to balance the needs of those that pay the taxes against those that would like services," he said.
3.) Mark from Bloomingdale sounded more like Marco from West Miami, telling Scott that Florida should eliminate property taxes. "Outlaw it," he said.
Scott smiled and nodded. "I don't disagree with you that reducing property taxes or eliminating them would be a big help," Scott said.
Scott didn't mention that he pushed for only a fraction of the property taxes he promised from the campaign trail.
Instead, he said: "We're probably the only state this year that walked in with a big deficit, balanced our budget, created a surplus and reduced taxes."
4.) It will take some time to figure out if Scott is correct about all those metrics, but it is true that Florida has a projected $1.3 billion budget surplus at the moment.
We're told that state budget writers were briefed last week about current estimates, which will put the state on pace for a $1.3 billion surplus for the coming year. Still tracking down the details, but that's roughly the same amount lawmakers cut in spending this year.
UPDATE: One man's surplus is another man's reserve. While Scott technically isn't wrong to call it a surplus, this is not an unexpected amount of money that has suddenly poured into Florida. The number he refers to was what lawmakers planned as the state's "reserves." Lawmakers expected about $1.2 billion in reserves, which means the amount has grown by about $100,000 since the budget was passed.
5.) Hector, an independent in West Palm Beach, railed against the salary cuts for teachers and other public workers that were part of those spending reductions. "In all my years in education, I never heard anyone say, 'I want to be a cop or a teacher or a fireman because that's where the big bucks are,'" he told Scott.
Scott pointed to the teacher tenure bill that lawmakers passed this year. It could lead to higher salaries for teachers, but lawmakers did not pay for the program this year.
6.) Scott said after seven months there was not one decision he would change.
"There's no decision that I would do differently," he said. "It's an interesting process.
"I think it's hard often to explain yourself and have everybody... first off, not everybody is going to understand. Everybody is not going to agree with you," Scott said. "But no, there's no decision I would do differently.
"I've changed some of the people that work with me," he added. "I had great people working with me in the beginning, but it's different being a candidate - it's different being a CEO of a company - than it is as a governor."
7.) Scott took a couple questions about turning down federal grants, particularly to help pay for health care. (Although Scott told Bloomberg this week that he may press lawmakers to approve some of the $17 million they turned down this year because of its ties to the federal health care reform.)
Here was Scott's most detailed answer this morning:
"What we haven't accepted are dollars from the federal government that implement the Obama-care, the Affordable Health Care Act. One thing you have to do as governor is - it's no different from what they did with the stimulus. They gave us stimulus dollars and then they stopped. And they expect us to keep those programs going.
"So every dollar they offer us, we have to look at those grants and say, 'Alright, how long is the grant for? Is it something that fits in with what we're trying to do?'
"We have a very specific Medicaid reform package that is going to be very good for the Medicaid recipients. If it helps us in that reform, we're going for it. If it doesn't, we're not doing it because it doesn't make sense for our state and the people we care about in this state."
8) Scott did say he would take federal money if a hurricane hits the state this year.
"Oh, absolutely," he said.