Rick Scott and Charlie Crist Turn Toward Economic Issues
Around the State
Gov. Rick Scott looked to showcase his economic accomplishments on Monday as former Gov. Charlie Crist, the leading candidate for the Democratic nomination, continues to fire away.
Scott plans to focus the next two weeks on his political bread-and-butter: job creation. On Monday, Scott kicked off his “Jobs for the Next Generation” tour in Pompano Beach and Boca Raton. Scott called for the permanent elimination of the manufacturing sales tax and offering a plan for STEM teachers to work with businesses in summer residences as he looks to tie education to the changing economy.
“In order for Florida to remain a global hub for business, we have to make sure advanced industries are able to thrive and continue to create jobs and diversify our economy,” Scott said in Pompano Beach on Monday. “That means developing a well-educated workforce, eliminating roadblocks for job creators and investing in our research institutions. Florida has come a long way, but we have a long way to go – and focusing on jobs for the next generation will ensure that we continue to create long-lasting, high-wage, more resilient careers."
The Manufacturers Association of Florida (MAF) announced on Monday it was backing Scott for a second term. The elimination of the manufacturing sales tax -- one of the governor’s chief legislative issues back in 2013 -- -would be permanent under Scott’s new proposal.
“Florida is poised to capture tremendous growth from the expansion of exports and imports, the new investments of existing businesses, the attraction of direct foreign investment and new businesses, the enhancement of Floridians’ skill sets, and the investment in manufacturing, Gov. Scott is positioning Florida to excel in all of these areas,” the MAF announced in a statement. “Never before has Florida had a governor work so hard to make the American dream come true for everyone.
“Gov. Scott has made a difference in every corner of the business climate in Florida,” the MAF added. “That translates directly to more well-paying jobs and a higher quality of life for Floridians. His record speaks for itself.”
Scott also unveiled 11 new projects to help create the “Coast to Coast Connector” tying the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic by road. Adding almost $16 million to the $26 million already invested in the project, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) hopes to finish the project -- which will go from Pinellas County to Brevard County -- in the next five years.
“This $15.9 million investment will help to complete 11 sections of the Coast to Coast Connector which will help to bring more tourists to our state, and create jobs for families in our state,” Scott said on Monday. “Our tourists increasingly desire new ways to explore this beautiful state and the Coast to Coast Connector will do just that, as the only trail in America connecting the Gulf to the Atlantic.”
But Crist, the favorite for the Democratic nomination in next month’s primary despite spending most of his political life as a Republican, fired away at Scott over the weekend on economic and other issues.
“This week, the rest of the country is learning what Floridians have known for years: Rick Scott is allergic to answering questions,” Crist insisted on Saturday. “How about raising the minimum wage? No response. Try finding out why he turned down $2.4 billion for the high-speed rail project. Or ask him where he stands on equal pay. Whatever talking point he's programmed to say, he'll spit out, regardless of what he's asked. But I'll bet he answers the questions from the special interests and insiders who fund his campaign. Those are the people he represents. Those are the ones he considers his bosses.”
Crist continued that line of attack on Sunday.
“Rick Scott should have taken the $2.4 billion in federal funds for high-speed rail -- but instead, he went with the company that his adviser had close ties to,” Crist claimed on Sunday. “And now, Florida taxpayers will get stuck with the bill. But will Scott admit it, or even answer a single question on it? Of course not.”
Scott’s running mate, Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, came out swinging against Crist on Monday, pointing to the former governor’s time in office when the unemployment rate rose dramatically.
“As we launch our ‘Jobs for the Next Generation’ policy today and commit to initiatives as soon as next legislative session to grow more manufacturing jobs, Charlie Crist's record of economic failure stands out,” Lopez-Cantera said on Monday. “On Charlie Crist's watch, Florida lost over 800,000 jobs, 100,000 of which were in the manufacturing sector. Floridians were hurting, and Charlie didn't even try to stay and fix the problem. He wanted to run away to Washington. The record is clear – Charlie Crist's economic plan is and has always been empty promises. Gov. Scott doesn't just talk – he takes action. That's why Florida job creators have been able to add more than 600,000 new private-sector jobs since he took office – and our ‘Jobs for the Next Generation’ initiatives will help grow and keep our manufacturing sector working."
Reach Kevin Derby at email@example.com.