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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Gov. Scott to Legislature: Follow Texas approach on economy



Gov. Rick Scott has never hid his affinity for his former home state of Texas.

Scott, who holds a law degree from Dallas-based SMU and practiced law in Texas in the 1970s and 1980s, frequently makes references to the Lone Star State during big speeches and playfully has ginned up a rivalry with former Texas Gov. Rick Perry over job creation.

So it was of little surprise to most when Scott spent the bulk of his first few minutes of his unexpected appearance before a key committee of the Florida Legislature on Tuesday talking about what he learned from watching the Texas economy up close during the 1970s and 1980s.

“I moved to Texas and lived there for a while,” Scott told the House Finance & Tax Committee on Tuesday. “And if you go back to the 70s, when oil and gas prices were high, there were a lot of jobs. When oil and gas prices were low, there were not a lot of jobs.”

Scott said Texas was stuck in a boom-bust economy that was devastating in the early 1980s.

“I can remember in ‘82 when there was an oil bust; the office buildings were just vacant,” he said. “Jobs just went away.

While practicing law in Texas during that time period, Scott worked for what became Dallas’s biggest law firms, Johnson & Swanson. According to Scott’s official biography his work included representing the oil and gas industry.

Scott said what Texas did to get away from the boom-bust cycles was to diversify its economy to be less reliant on gas prices.

“What they have done is figure out how to diversify their economy,” Scott told the Finance & Tax Committee. “They went after corporate office moves. They got companies like JCPenny and Exxon and others to move.”

That approach mirrors what Scott has focused on during his tenure as governor. To create jobs, Scott has aimed at luring companies in other states to move to Florida or expand their operations in Florida.

Scott said what he wants to do is follow Texas’ lead further, which is why he said he is proposing more than $1 billion in tax cuts aimed primarily at businesses. He said by reducing those taxes, Florida improves its chances in bringing more companies to Florida, which reduces the state’s reliance on tourism and housing.

"Here’s our risk: We are very dependent on tourism. We are very dependent on construction. Two very good industries, but we’ve got to think about how we diversify our economy,” Scott said.

Scott said told legislators twice during his speech Florida should follow Texas.

"What Texas actually did is what we need to do," Scott said.

In Texas, even though the state’s energy economy has taken a hit from declining oil prices, the state’s unemployment rate remains at 4.4 percent, compared to the national figure of 5.5 percent.

Scott’s presentation to the committee on Tuesday was aimed at building support for his tax cut plan.

Scott’s tax cut plan includes:

• $770 million for permanent elimination of income taxes on retail and manufacturing companies

• $76.9 million for permanent elimination of sales taxes on manufacturing machinery and equpment

• $339 million in temporary cut in sales taxes on commercial leases

• $46.5 million to continue cutting sales taxes on college textbooks begun this year

• $72.8 million to continue sales tax holidays for back to school shopping and hurricane preparedness.

[Last modified: Wednesday, December 2, 2015 1:55pm]


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