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How will Florida's new 'chief executive' fare?

And now, for something completely different …

Rick Scott becomes Florida's 45th governor today.

Our state's new chief executive officer is — whaddya know? An actual chief executive officer, and not a "career politician."

He did not serve in the Legislature, the Cabinet or Congress.

He did not mortgage himself for campaign money. He famously (or infamously) spent his own fortune.

He did not kiss up to interest groups to win. True, he is totally probusiness, but he came that way out of the box — they're kissing up to him.

He does not seem to care about offending, or how he looks in the media (which he largely ignores), or the critics. This is a good thing, since he starts with a 43 percent unfavorable rating.

Here was an interesting and revealing episode: One of Scott's early decisions was to dump the special drug control outfit in the Governor's Office.

Good grief! Doesn't he know that politicians are required to be double-plus against drugs? The more bureaucracy, the better?

No. He figured that there are plenty of law enforcement agencies for these things. It was a business decision. And his spokesman's statement was refreshingly politically incorrect: "I don't think we're going to have cocaine bales stacking up on the docks of Miami if we close this office."

Then there's the $2 billion-plus that the feds are trying to pour into Florida for high-speed rail between Orlando and Tampa. Instead of grabbing the money, Scott's answer so far is, more or less: "Yeah, let me think about whether that makes sense."

Scott's interview in Monday's paper about the state pension fund was impressive — but then, the topic was a slow pitch right in his strike zone. He thinks the fund's growth projections are unrealistic. Unlike the last bunch in Tallahassee, he is determined to be an active overseer. That would be a really welcome change.

These things are just for starters. There's something for everybody not to like. He would radically change public education in Florida. He seems likely to propose something just as radical toward the privatization of Medicaid and state prisons. If he is serious about how we all need to be paying higher electric rates so corporations can pay less, people are going to start noticing.

But Question No. 1 is how much his platform of creating jobs and cutting "red tape" will conflict with Florida's environmental and growth laws. At best, he will balance the two; at worst, he will be willing to sacrifice the second for the first — with a Legislature eager to help.

As soon as he gets started, Scott has to figure out how he would close a gap in next year's state budget that is growing toward $4 billion. It will be interesting to see his "business" approach.

Frankly, history is against him — the outsider-reformer usually disappoints. Look at Arnold Schwarzenegger in California, a state that proved to be ungovernable. (On the other hand, Arnold never built and ran a multibillion-dollar corporation. So maybe we do have something brand new.)

Let's hope Scott, the chief executive, does not fulfill Harry Truman's prediction about his successor Dwight Eisenhower: "He'll sit here and he'll say, 'Do this! Do that!' And nothing will happen. Poor Ike! It won't be a bit like the Army. He'll find it very frustrating."

How will Florida's new 'chief executive' fare? 01/03/11 [Last modified: Monday, January 3, 2011 6:40pm]
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