1. Opinion

Editorial: Scott plays nice and safe

Gov. Rick Scott delivers his State of the State address Tuesday, March 5, 2013, in the Florida House of Representatives in Tallahassee, Fla.
Published Mar. 5, 2013

Gov. Rick Scott delivered his most upbeat State of the State speech yet Tuesday, reflecting Florida's economic rebound from the worst of the Great Recession. He praised everyone from teachers to university presidents to business leaders, avoiding confrontation and appealing to mainstream voters he will need to win re-election next year. But the governor was noticeably silent on most big issues and stuck to narrow budget priorities, passing up an opportunity to cast a broader vision for Florida's future.

Scott renewed his argument that the state's economy is recovering because of less state spending, smaller government and tax breaks for job creators. He drew comparisons to the four years before he took office, an unsubtle jab at former Gov. Charlie Crist, the Republican-turned-Democrat who may challenge Scott next year. But Crist did not trigger the recession, and Scott cannot take too much credit for the recovery. The federal stimulus helped stop the bleeding, and state economists attribute nearly half of the drop in the state's unemployment rate last year to people dropping out of the workforce. The housing market is improving, but Florida also had the highest foreclosure rate in the nation last year.

Still, the state anticipates its first surplus in six years for 2013-14. After two years of painful cuts, Scott now champions investing in public schools and higher education. He renewed his call for a $2,500 raise for each public school teacher and offered, "We don't want a war on teachers; we want a war on failure."

It is a welcome sentiment from Tallahassee after two years of dramatic changes that left teachers whipsawed and with less money in their pockets. But it will take more than a pay raise for Scott to demonstrate his conversion. A general pay raise contradicts the merit pay plan he signed that takes effect in 2014. Even if the Legislature embraces Scott's proposed $1.2 billion more for public schools, per student spending will be less than in 2007-08.

Scott highlighted his push for a $140 million exemption on sales taxes for manufacturing equipment. He reaffirmed his smart endorsement of accepting billions in federal dollars to expand Medicaid to nearly 1 million uninsured Floridians under the Affordable Care Act he long opposed — drawing cheers from Democrats and silence from Republicans. It would have been even more helpful if the governor had made a direct plea to the Republican leadership to embrace the Medicaid expansion.

An hour before Scott spoke, House Speaker Will Weatherford delivered an unnecessarily strident argument against the expansion that was at odds with his pledge to oversee a less ideologically driven House. Weatherford left himself no room for negotiation, and it will be up to the governor and Senate President Don Gaetz to help the young speaker out of the box he has created for himself.

Scott's speech failed to address the state's voting debacle or the need for ethics reform — which the Senate unanimously approved Tuesday afternoon. The governor also was silent on property insurance and on utilities collecting hundreds of millions for nuclear plants that may never be built. Applying the sales tax to all Internet sales, or the controversial "stand your ground" law? They never came up.

Swept into office by the tea party wave in 2010, Scott more recently has embraced more mainstream views, from supporting teachers and expanding early voting to accepting federal Medicaid dollars. But Scott's view of Florida on Tuesday was not nearly so expansive, as the governor focused more on establishing a positive tone than on addressing some of Florida's most pressing issues.


  1.  Bill Day --
  2. Jomari DeLeon, is pictured at at Gadsden Correctional Facility in Quincy, Florida August 7, 2019. Jomari is three years into a 15-year sentence for drug trafficking. She sold 48 tablets of prescription tablets over two days to an undercover officer. JOHN PENDYGRAFT   |  Times
    Even Oklahoma, a state not famous for progressive reform, has done more than Florida to fix sentencing inequities, Carl Hiaasen writes.
  3. In this photo from June 28, 2019, a Coalition for Life St. Louis member waves to a Planned Parenthood staff member. ROBERT COHEN  |  AP
    Florida law already requires that parents be notified prior to an abortion, writes senior policy counsel at the ACLU of Florida.
  4. Students say the Pledge of Allegiance as thousands gather at a candlelight vigil for several students killed in the Saugus High School shooting in Central Park, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019, in Santa Clarita, Calif. CAROLYN COLE  |  AP
    We doctors treat diseases, but what of the epidemic of gun violence, writes a St. Petersburg doctor.
  5. Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association members protest outside of the school board building in Tampa in December 2017. MONICA HERNDON  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Here’s what readers had to say in Tuesday’s letters to the editor.
  6. Muhammad Abdur-Rahim points out the location of what is believed to be a former African-American cemetery next to the parking lot of Frank Crum Staffing located at 100 S. Missouri Ave. in Clearwater.  The empty lot is part of the former Clearwater Heights neighborhood which featured Bethany CME church and Williams Elementary School.   Photo taken Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019.  JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Times
    Tampa Bay’s lost cemeteries are part of our collective history.
  7. A business man and woman holding a sign depicting their political party preference. SHARON DOMINICK  |
    Here’s what readers had to say in Monday’s letters to the editor.
  8. Leonard Pitts undefined
    Don’t wall ourselves off from contradictory opinions, writes Leonard Pitts.
  9. President Donald Trump, right, and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani pose for photographs as Giuliani arrives at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse in Nov. 2016 in Bedminster, N.J.
    Here’s some interesting commentary from the opposite poles of the political spectrum.
  10. (left to right) Nupar Godbole, medical student at USF, and Tiffany Damm, medical student at UCF, take part in a papaya workshop at the University of South Florida Medical Students for Choice Second Annual Florida Regional Conference held in the Morsani College of Medicine on February 24, 2019 in Tampa, Florida. Some of the instruments used in abortions, like the manual vacuum aspirator, are used in an exercise with a papaya, to simulate an abortion. MONICA HERNDON  |  Times
    Here’s what readers had to say in Sunday’s letters to the editor.