Republican Gov. Rick Scott and Democrat Charlie Crist spent millions attacking each other before cruising to primary election victories Tuesday night against noncompetitive opponents. With the 10-week general election campaign starting today, voters deserve a better discussion about the serious challenges facing Florida. Floridians are familiar with the incumbent governor and the former governor. The question is which man has the best vision for guiding this state in a positive direction over the next four years.
Here are five issues voters and the candidates should focus on leading up to the Nov. 4 election:
Education. Per student spending is higher than when Scott took office but still less than the record in 2007-08 when Crist was governor. Construction money has been steered away from traditional public schools toward charter schools, and vouchers for private school tuition have been expanded at the expense of public education. Parents and teachers are still uneasy about the new Florida Standards, the state's version of Common Core, and about how students will be tested. Both Scott and Crist pledge to increase education spending, and Scott has called for still another review of the new standards.
Universities also need more public investment, and student debt has increased. Both candidates claim to support higher education and are eager to cut student debt and increase the emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Who will stick up for the value of a liberal arts education and an engaged citizenry?
Energy. Florida has no viable energy policy, no commitment to encouraging renewable energy and no plan for meeting upcoming federal requirements to reduce carbon emissions. Who will create a policy that encourages energy efficiency, emphasizes renewable energy and reduces the state's carbon footprint?
Environment. Both candidates support restoration of the Everglades, although their approaches have differed. The state's commitment to buying land for preservation has diminished, leading to a constitutional amendment on the November ballot. Growth management has been decimated, and water management district budgets have been slashed. Who will best manage growth as the economy rebounds and pursue a sound state water policy?
Health care. Both candidates claim to support accepting billions in federal Medicaid expansion dollars that could help cover more than 800,000 uninsured Floridians. Who will persuade the Legislature to take the money?
Consumers. Crist encouraged the expansion of the state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. to make property insurance more available and affordable after the busy hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005. Scott pushed to reduce the size of Citizens and steer homeowners into small private insurers that were often inexperienced. The law that allowed Duke Energy to bill customers more than $3 billion for nuclear plants that are broken or will never be built was passed before Crist became governor and was slightly adjusted but not repealed under Scott. The Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities, routinely rubber-stamps what the power companies want.
Which candidate for governor will stand up for consumers rather than the powerful property insurers and electric utilities?