TAMPA — Rick Scott is an optimist.
Florida may have one of the worst economies in the country, but at a campaign stop Wednesday in Tampa, the Republican gubernatorial candidate said its weather, beaches, limitations on unions and lack of an income tax make it ripe to become a mecca for new businesses.
And once he's done slashing state government, eliminating corporate taxes and cutting property taxes, Scott promised, the Sunshine State will lead the country in business growth.
"At the end of four years, everybody will believe this is the state that, if you're going to do business in America, you're going to pick this place, because it has a governor, lieutenant governor and a government that is open for business," he said.
Should state workers worry about his plans to slash billions in state spending, privatize services, ramp up employees' contributions for retirement funds?
"No, you should be excited,'' he said. "It's going to be exciting. They're going to get to do something. They're going to get to say I accomplished something."
Should strapped property owners worry about Scott's plan to remove the 10 percent annual cap on increases for Citizens Property Insurance premiums?
"They should be excited that we're going to have a viable system,'' Scott enthused, dismissing talk of rate hikes. "My belief is with competition, with certainty in the insurance markets, rates will come down."
Scott drew cheers from the crowd at the Embassy Suites hotel, many applauding his status as a longtime businessman.
Scott used to lead Columbia/HCA, but was pushed out before the company paid $1.7 billion in fines for Medicare fraud. No one in the friendly Tampa crowd raised that issue.
A Department of Management Services report found Florida and Illinois tied for the lowest ratio of population to state employees, and Florida had the lowest public employee payroll.
"We already have the smallest and least expensive state government per capita in the country,'' said Doug Martin, with the AFSCME public employees union. That results in long waiting lists for residents in need of services, he said.