In his first address in the state capital, Republican Rick Scott told a crowd of about 350 on Tuesday that, if elected governor, he will fight for reduced regulation, tighter control on immigration and less taxation.
“I believe I will win because our message is the message that Floridians want,” the prominent businessman-turned-candidate told the lobbyists, lawmakers, and politicians gathered at the Tallahassee Civic Center. “They want the message of limited government. They want the message of fiscal responsibility. They want the message of personal freedom.”
Scott was speaking to the Capital Tiger Bay Club, a nonpartisan Florida political group, minutes after he filed papers to make his gubernatorial run official. Founder of the Solantic Corp. chain of urgent care clinics, Scott touted his credentials as a conservative businessman and a leader who can guarantee true change in government.
“The state of Florida is a leader in this country, and the governor has the opportunity to make sure that message gets out across the country,” Scott said. That’s what my commitment is.”
Florida needs to be run like a business, said Scott, former chairman and CEO of Columbia/HCA hospital chain. And decades of experience in the private sector have given the political outsider running for the Republican nomination the skills to make the state successful and an example for the rest of the nation, Scott said.
“I know how to build private-sector jobs. I know that you have to balance the budget, or your business will close,” Scott said. “And I know the hardest thing as the CEO of a company is holding people accountable. But the only way you get results is by holding people accountable.”
Scott’s first task as governor will be to review every state agency and establish specific outcome measurements for them. Everyone says government needs to grow every year, he said, but that needn’t be so.
“There’s no reason that the state government should grow faster then the population, but it does,” he said. “… My belief is that we can provide a better service at a better price.”
The state needs to concentrate on job growth in the private sector and less regulation for businesses, he told the crowd. He pointed out that Florida ranked 45th of 50 states in business regulation climate, a number he’s stated before and which comes from a think tank report. The issue was spotlighted this session when the Legislature tried to raise property insurance rates, only to have their measures opposed by Gov. Charlie Crist.
“Regulation’s been used by a lot of companies to slow down competition, and I believe in competition," Scott said. "Whoever can provide the best service, the best price, the better outcome, whatever your industry is. You should be the winner. The state should not decide who the winner is. “
A Tiger Bay member asked Scott his opinion on the $20 billion independently managed escrow fund British Petroleum has agreed to set up in compensation for losses created by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Scott said any business that makes profits should be held responsible for the damage it causes, but the federal government was not doing a good job of doing that. The $75 million liability cap on the Oil Protection Act of 1990 actually reduces a company’s liability, he said.
Scott said Florida should adopt Arizona’s proposed immigration reforms, which call for police officers who stop people to ask for evidence that they are in the country legally. Scott said he believes in immigration, but the current process is broken and costly to taxpayers.
“If you come to our country, and you violate our laws, and you are stopped by a policeman, you should be asked if you’re legal. And if you’re not, you should leave the country,” Scott said, receiving applause for the sentiment.
Barney Bishop, president and CEO of business advocacy group AIF, said that he was encouraged by what he heard at the meeting, and he thought Scott, a millionaire, had a good chance of raising the funds needed to run a successful campaign against gubernatorial hopefuls like Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum and Democrat Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink.
"I think this is exactly what somebody running for governor ought to be talking about," Bishop said.
Tom Denmark, a Democrat and retired lobbyist and academic, said he was trying to keep an open mind about Scott's campaign.
"I think his business experience, and I think his honesty are his strengths," he said. "I think his lack [of knowledge] of how government works is a weakness," he said.
Reach Alex Tiegen at (561) 329-5389 or firstname.lastname@example.org.