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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rick Scott to invoke 'The hug' and pitch $500M in tax cuts before conservative crowd in Orlando

Times files



The hug is back.

Gov. Rick Scott will surely please the crowd at the Americans for Prosperity conference in Orlando today by invoking Charlie Crist's embrace of President Barack Obama and the federal stimulus.

"I came into office just as President Obama’s stimulus money was on the way out. My predecessor had made a name for himself by hugging president Obama’s non-stop spending – and even hugging the President. When asked about taking all the stimulus, he said he 'needed the money,' " Scott says, according to prepared remarks. "As a result, spending and debt increased at an alarming rate. DC’s spending addiction had spread to Florida.

Scott, citing an improved economy, will announce a proposal to cut taxes and fees by $500 million in the next budget.

The hug proved effective for Marco Rubio in the 2010 Senate battle with Crist, and Scott has used the imagery in a fundraising letter. Today's speech signals he intends to continue down that road. It could also serve to inject some life into Scott's otherwise lackluster public persona. "He is like the zombie candidate," said Edward Lynch, a conservative activist from Wellington.

More from Scott's speech:

"Hard decisions had been delayed, and replaced with the shortsighted policies of more debt and more spending. Florida was in a hole – and for about four years, the state just kept digging. When I took office, the bill had come due. It was time to stop digging and climb out of the hole."

Scott goes on to tout the economic recovery and his efforts to bring jobs to the state.

"We paid back $3.5 billion in federal loans for re-employment assistance. And, we did all this while also cutting taxes five times in three years, including: The elimination of the sales tax on manufacturing equipment to help jump-start manufacturing investment.  Continuing to roll back the business tax, so that today around 70 percent of our businesses no longer pay it. And, we cut property taxes for homeowners and businesses.

"I hope the critics – and the tax and spend liberals who think you have to grow government to grow the economy – are paying attention to what happened next ... After right-sizing government and cutting taxes, this year, we had our first budget surplus in six years."

[Last modified: Friday, August 30, 2013 2:43pm]


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