Gov. Rick Scott narrowly won re-election Tuesday by convincing voters he has Florida's economy on track and has moderated his positions in areas such as education and the environment. In his second term, the governor should continue to build on the more positive direction he has taken over the last year and follow through on campaign pledges to invest more in Florida and its people.
This was a brutal, negative gubernatorial race on all sides. The Republican incumbent and Democrat Charlie Crist set records for campaign spending and negative attacks. Both candidates were unpopular and spent little time offering a vision for Florida's future, and instead rehashed the past and fought over who was responsible for changes in the economy. Scott won by transforming from a tea party-backed governor who slashed spending on public schools and higher education to one trumpeting investment in education and Everglades restoration.
Now is the time for Scott to demonstrate to voters that his evolution to a more pragmatic politician is more than a campaign ploy. While education spending is returning to record levels as enrollment grows, the per pupil spending still lags. And Scott will need to follow through on his campaign promise to re-examine school testing and accountability measures to ensure they are fair and contribute to student achievement.
Scott's recent embrace of springs and Everglades restoration is welcome. But such environmental investments will mean little unless the state recommits to growth management practices that ensure sustainability for the state's growing population.
The governor also has taken credit for the economic recovery and creating thousands of jobs, but many Floridians are still struggling with everyday expenses. In his second term, the governor should focus as much attention on their concerns about electricity rates and property insurance premiums as he has on tax breaks for corporations.
Scott made significant inroads in his first term in improving Florida's ports. But he canceled the high-speed rail line from Tampa to Orlando, and other transportation planning has centered on roads, most of them requiring tolls. His obfuscation on the proposed All Aboard Florida rail line in southeast Florida fueled distrust of a potentially worthwhile project. The governor should recommit to examining all transportation options.
Nearly 1 million Floridians don't have health insurance because they make too much money for traditional Medicaid but too little to qualify for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act. Scott should follow through on his support for accepting billions in federal Medicaid expansion dollars and press the Republican-led Legislature to take the money.
Finally, the governor should recommit himself to open government, including being more transparent with family finances that still list him as a trustee. Floridians have a right to know what their government is doing and if their elected leaders have potential conflicts.
Scott won a second term by characterizing Crist as a flip-flopper who could not be trusted, taking credit for the economic rebound and moderating his policy positions. Now he has an opportunity to reward the voters' faith in him by continuing to move toward the center.