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  1. Florida Politics

Dueling governors: Rick Scott and Jerry Brown challenge each other on jobs, climate change

Gov. Rick Scott listens to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker at a conference in California on Monday. Moderator Eric Schmidt is at left.
Published May 3, 2016

Gov. Rick Scott is on the road again in his never-ending search for jobs.

He was in California on Monday, where his host didn't appreciate the attention.

True to form, Scott, a Republican, tries to poach jobs only from states run by Democrats.

On his job-seeking trips, he doesn't just sell the virtues of Florida. He bashes the state he's visiting, often citing its high taxes and labor costs.

Take the minimum wage. It's $8.05 an hour in Florida and $10 in California.

Scott opposes increasing it; California has agreed to raise it to $15 by 2021.

"People are going to lose their jobs," Scott predicted on Monday. "Every job is important."

As Scott's jet touched down in Los Angeles on Sunday, California Gov. Jerry Brown, a liberal Democrat, was firing off a letter to Tallahassee.

He said he doesn't consider Florida a serious competitor.

"California is the seventh largest economic power in the world," Brown wrote. "We're competing with nations like Brazil and France, not states like Florida."

Brown then blasted Scott for not taking climate change seriously.

"It's time to stop the silly political stunts and start doing something about climate change — two words you won't even let state officials say," Brown told Scott. "The threat is real and so too will be the devastating impacts."

Brown included a report from the Risky Business Project, a bipartisan climate change initiative, that said Florida faces a higher risk of catastrophic property losses from climate change than any state.

"Don't stick your head in the sand," Brown told Scott.

The subject never came up at a conference in Beverly Hills, where Scott was on a polite bipartisan panel at a Milken Institute conference with three fellow governors: Republican Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Democrats John Hickenlooper of Colorado and Terry McAuliffe of Virginia.

Scott touted Florida port expansion projects, the reduction in the state's workforce and crime at "a 44 1/2-year low." He restated his opposition to lifting the trade embargo with Cuba.

McAuliffe, who ran the Democratic Party when Bill Clinton was president, said his job missions aren't to other states, but to countries such as England, Germany and China.

McAuliffe said he won't fight other states because "you've got to play the incentive game, and it's very expensive to do that. … We don't buy deals."

Those could be fighting words to Scott, a big believer in offering incentives to companies to relocate or grow.

But he didn't answer McAuliffe, which was probably just as well because that might have meant acknowledging that Scott's fellow Republicans refused to approve his request for $250 million for incentives.

The panel ended with a man citing a Scott handout unflatteringly comparing California to Florida. The man asked Scott why anyone would move from California to Florida, a "right to work" state where employees earn less in pay and benefits for the same work. (A starting highway patrol officer in California is paid $74,700 a year, with automatic 5 percent pay increases annually. In Florida, the starting salary is $33,977 with no automatic annual pay raises.)

Scott didn't address the question. He praised the quality of police and firefighters and cited a new law that boosts benefits to survivors of officers killed on duty.

"Our goal is to make it the state where you want to be there," Scott replied. "We care about you, and we're going to take care of you."

Contact Steve Bousquet at bousquet@tampabay.com or (850) 224-7263. Follow @stevebousquet.

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