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Column: The speech a snub kept Crist from giving

Editor's note: The Council of 100, a private nonpartisan group of top Florida business leaders, heard from Gov. Rick Scott on Thursday in Orlando but disinvited former Gov. Charlie Crist. Here are excerpts, condensed and adapted, from the speech that the former Republican governor and presumptive Democratic nominee this year planned to deliver but that the Council of 100 refused to hear:

I am running for governor for one simple reason: Tallahassee is broken, and it is time to put the people back in charge. We need a governor who will refocus the state on things that are important to all Floridians: good schools, affordable health care, respect for our environment and dignity for our seniors.

I am proud of my record as your governor. Investing in public education and stopping the layoffs of some 20,000 teachers during the global economic meltdown. Cracking down on government corruption and opening up government so you can be the watchdog.

Helping families by dramatically cutting property taxes and stopping the excessive profits in the property insurance market. Advocating for seniors by working to cut the cost of prescription drugs and helping seniors to stay in their home instead of being forced to move into nursing homes. Standing up for the basic tenets of democracy by ensuring that Florida voters would vote on paper ballots — and extending early voting hours in 2008 when long lines were limiting the right of our people to vote.

Being tough on crime — locking up the most dangerous in our society so they can do no harm, but also leading on forgiveness, by ensuring that nonviolent ex-felons who had paid their debt to society would have their rights restored.

And leading on the environment, working to help the Gulf Coast recover from the oil spill, reducing pollution into the Everglades, supporting green energy.

This was our record. One of putting Florida families ahead of partisan politics — looking out for the middle class over the politics of extremism, and trying to work with willing members of both parties to move Florida ahead. And we can do so much more.

Right now, we have an economic plan led by Governor Scott that consists of flying in his private plane to hold press conferences to tout job growth that he had literally nothing to do with. It might be a good plan for getting re-elected, but it's not a road map for long term economic growth.

So here is how we are going to get this economy really growing again.

We are going to improve education and make college more affordable. By 2020, we want to be in the top 10 percent, not just in America, but globally, in reading, math, science and technology.

We will get the politics out of university governance. We will re-empower the Board of Governors to make sure excellence in our universities is coordinated. Issues like the creation of Florida Polytech, and even this debate over FSU and FAMU engineering school, have shown what happens when university governance is delegated to politicians, who put their interests before the people's interest.

I will create a standing task force, that reports to the governor's office, that ensures the programs in our universities are meeting the needs of today's workforce. To build a truly world class university system, the state and the business community must work hand in hand.

Not only will I reverse Gov. Scott's cuts to Bright Futures scholarships, I will propose an expansive new program that will incentivize students to stay in school and earn their graduate degree in key science, technology, engineering and medical programs — if they agree to stay here and work in Florida.

We are going to invest in infrastructure like roads, bridges and ports. And yes, we are going to renew the effort to create a real high-speed rail and mass transit system, to get people off our clogged roads and make it easier for Floridians and our visitors to get around our state.

And we will invest in renewable energy, like wind and solar. Besides being good for the environment, alternative energy will create new, high-paying jobs. It is time for government to stop standing in the way.

We are going to make trade a priority like never before. I will create the position of Florida Trade and Development Representative — a Cabinet-level job that will report directly to me. And that job will have one job only — to responsibly open the doors of foreign markets so that Florida companies can sell their goods and services overseas. I will fight to open the borders with Cuba, so that Florida businesses — not those from China, are the ones who are building the post-Castro Cuba.

Here is the reality: Today we have a governor who leads by embracing the ideological fringes, taking care of his friends, bullying his opponents, hiding from the public and press and running from tough issues. We simply deserve a governor who will stand up for the people — as I always have, and always will.

Yes, I am running as a Democrat — proudly. But to every independent and Republican who feels we are losing our way — please join us. We will not agree on everything — nor should we.

But the principles that unite us as Americans and Floridians will always be more compelling than the issues that divide us. Rick Scott doesn't get that — but I know you do.

Column: The speech a snub kept Crist from giving 05/15/14 [Last modified: Thursday, May 15, 2014 4:34pm]

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