Here are Gov. Rick Scotts remarks to the Federal Society in Washington, D.C., on Friday, during the organizations 2012 National Lawyers Convention at the Mayflower Hotel:
Thank you, Dean, for that kind and generous introduction. It is a great honor and pleasure to be here today.
Ten days after a long and contentious presidential election, it seems that our whole political system is becoming a sort of constant campaign one election barely seems to end before we are in the middle of another one. There is virtually no break in between, which leaves people feeling tired and a little aggravated.
A break is especially important in between elections because elections are essentially all about problems. Good governing is about solutions.
So today, I want us to take our own break from the constant campaign in Washington and talk about solutions.
As governor, my job is to help solve the biggest challenges facing Florida families. First, everyone wants a job. Second, every parent wants a great education for their children because they know that is the key to living the American Dream. Third, they dont want government to cause the cost of living to go up.
In 2010, I started my first campaign as a political newcomer. I had never run for office before.
Growing up, my family struggled financially. We moved a lot as my parents took different jobs to afford to pay the bills.
My father was a bus driver, then a truck driver. My mom worked as everything from a hostess in a Chinese restaurant to a clerk at JC Pennys.
At the age of 7, I got my first part-time job selling TV guides door-to-door because i wanted to help support my family.
We didnt have a fancy house or nice cars, but what I got from my parents was better than that. They taught me that the American Dream is real and that only in this country can you start anywhere, work hard and sacrifice, and make your dreams come true.
I was determined to work hard and chase my dreams. After high school, I joined the U.S. Navy. I went to community college, married my high school sweetheart, graduated from university, and eventually law school.
I went on to a successful career in law and then a career in business.
In 2010, I decided to run for governor because I looked around and the American Dream as I knew it seemed to be fading.
President Obama was in the White House, building a legacy of big government. American families worried about jobs, but Washington was focused on Obamacare and unconstrained in its spending of taxpayer money.
Florida was in similar shape. In 2010, Floridas unemployment was high we lost almost 700,000 jobs in four years, our housing market had collapsed, and families worried about their jobs. Floridas budgeting process during the flush times had not adhered to conservative principles of preparing for rainy days, and our government programs had grown bloated and inefficient.
I have lived the American Dream, and I ran for governor to keep it alive for my children and my grandchildrens generation and for all Florida families.
In 2010, we had no shortage of problems in Florida. I ran on conservative solutions focused on one goal: jobs.
My message is simple -- everything we do in government must be focused on helping families pursue their dreams by getting a great job, a quality education for their children, and keeping the cost of living low.
In fact, every day when confronted with a new legislative idea or proposal, I first ask, How will this impact a family making $40,000 a year?
We still have more work to do, but I am proud to tell you that since I took office less than two years ago, we have seen great progress.
We have had the largest unemployment rate drop in the country.
Our consumer confidence is at a five-year high.
Our exports are up 18 percent from a year ago.
We are on pace for another record year for tourism. In the second quarter of this year alone, we had 22 million visitors.
Our housing market is also making a comeback. Median home sales prices in Florida this past September were 7.4 percent above September 2011.
More people are moving into Florida. Net in-migration has almost doubled from last year alone.
More than 174,000 private-sector jobs have been created in Florida since December 2010, and Florida has experienced positive annual job growth now for 27 consecutive months.
o In fact, just today we can announce that Florida added 12,100 private-sector jobs in the month of October and our unemployment rate declined to 8.5 percent -- the lowest unemployment rate in Florida since December 2008.
o My campaign goal was to create 700,000 jobs in seven years. Florida is now projected to create more than 900,000 new jobs by 2018.
These are the results, and weve gotten to this point because we used conservative solutions to help Florida families pursue their dreams.
Our turnaround in Florida started with four important steps steps that reflect solutions for the Florida families I talk to every day as I travel the state:
First -- we cut regulations, and streamlined the regulatory system. We eliminated more than 2,100 burdensome and unnecessary government rules, and we cut the time it takes to process and grant professional and environmental permits. This makes it easier for businesses to compete and to hire more Floridians.
Second -- we cut taxes by hundreds of millions of dollars. When I ran for governor, I promised to eliminate the business tax in our state over seven years and today more than 75 percent of businesses that fall under it are now exempt. Just last week, I announced that we will further eliminate another 2,000 small businesses from paying this tax in our upcoming legislative session. This makes it easier for businesses to compete and hire more Floridians.
Third -- we made hard choices to reign in government spending and balance our budget. We balanced the state budget in my first year without raising taxes, despite a multibillion-dollar budget deficit. We also made sure that the liability held by taxpayers and government employees for an underfunded pension system was reformed to make sure that the pension plan would actually exist when employees retire, without adding more of a tax burden on Florida families and businesses. This creates more certainty for businesses who want to expand and hire more Floridians, and ensures those relying on the state pension plan will actually receive their pensions.
Fourth: we worked to improve our education system by investing over a billion dollars and implementing greater accountability measures that help students go onto college or a career when they graduate. Education is fundamentally about preparing students to get a great job, so we are refocusing our education system around that objective.
Our economic turnaround for Florida families is well under way and we are proof that conservative solutions work. Keeping the cost of living low for families and growing the economy so anyone who wants a job can find one is not just great policy it is critical to preserving the American Dream for future generations.
As governor, I compete with other states for jobs.
It is easy for us to compete with California, Illinois or Connecticut. They have chosen to raise taxes and increase spending time and time again, forcing companies to close down or move away.
On the other hand, Floridas biggest U.S. competitor for jobs is Texas. Like Florida, Texas has no state income tax and they work aggressively to cut regulations and keep companies growing.
Conservative solutions are at work preserving the dreams of families in Florida as well as Texas.
Perhaps now, more than ever, it is important for states to stand up for the principles and policies that the federal government ignores. We will keep balancing our budgets, cutting taxes, and eliminating regulations that inhibit free market solutions and economic growth.
Yes, states could be in an even better position if we had a partner at the federal level, but conservative solutions in states have a huge impact.
Florida is the fourth largest state in the nation, soon to pass New York, it contains the international hub of Miami, and it is the tipping point in presidential elections. I am convinced that where we lead in Florida, the nation will eventually follow.
Alexander Hamilton, in a speech to the New York constitutional ratifying convention in 1788 explained that citizens must dwell on the balance between national and state governments with particular attention because it forms a double security [for] the people. If one encroaches on their rights they will find a powerful protection in the other. We must work aggressively to protect the American Dream for future generations.
From the very outset of our constitutional experiment, there has always been a temptation for the federal government to expand the reach of government and to diminish the sphere of individual freedom along with it.
In the face of adversity, it is easy to look to an all-powerful government machine that will promise to fix all problems, realize every dream, and line every pocket. But we know those promises are empty. There is no government replacement for dreams and hard work. What citizens in this country have always yearned for and demanded is the equality of opportunity, not equality of outcomes.
Government overpromises and underdelivers. Government has no inherent incentive to be efficient. In fact, i meet with a lot of people in this job and not one has come to me asking that their funding be reduced or their program eliminated. However, we have no limit to requests for more funding. I respond by asking them what tax they want me to raise on Florida families if they dont want to cut spending somewhere else in government. Instead, government has a natural inertia toward its own growth. Programs become larger and more unsustainable until eventually the services they once promised are just hollow promises to be fulfilled on the backs of future generations.
More promises lead to more spending
I am not sure there even is an off switch on the money printing machine switch here.
Our national debt is impossible to fathom, much less sustain. The worst part is that our children and grandchildren will be left paying the bills.
While promises and spending seem to flow in an unmitigated stream from the nations capital, those of us at the state level have to manage the books.
In Florida, we are required to balance our budget every year -- a novel concept in Washington. That is a major reason why we reject the short-sighted politics of spending promises that result in long-term costs to taxpayers. Of course, our state had increased state debt approximately $1 billion a year for 20 years straight. Since i took office, we have reduced state debt by approximately $2 billion.
We all remember the stimulus that would have begun projects, like high-speed rail, in states without the financial support to continue them. Or, the mandate of Obamacare now officially reinvented as the largest tax increase in American history -- which comes with only a few years of promised federal funding to support states that will then be forced to raise taxes to sustain it.
My goal is to work with the administration to reduce the cost of health care for all Americans and improve the quality and access in our health care system.
In order to grow our national economy, government must live within its means.
In Florida, we are on track to beat Texas as the top state in the nation for job creation. But, on the national level we will continue to look more like the faltering economies of Europe -- with rising inflation that most hurts those who can least afford it -- if we do not band together and demand real solutions for fiscal management and economic growth.
We are all here today because we still believe in the American Dream.
In one generation, my family went from the dreams of my financially struggling parents, to the accomplishments of a son who now has the honor of serving as governor of the great state of Florida.
That is why I ran for governor; and why I am standing before you today conservative solutions work and they will preserve the American Dream for future generations of families just like mine.
Our principles are just as powerful today as they were last week, last year, and last century. We can debate how well conservatives campaigned, and we can marvel at the tactics used by the other team. But the political landscape -- as always -- is bound to change. Our ideas are permanent and lasting, and they are worth fighting for now more than ever.
As long as people like you are willing to fight for real solutions and conservative principles, this will remain the country we know and love a country that guarantees individual rights through limited government, economic opportunity through free enterprise, and security through robust national defense.
You all know as well as I do that we can never surrender our freedoms and principles, for the simple reason that they are not ours to surrender.
I want to leave you with a challenge as I conclude.
I am challenging you to pledge your time, intellect, talent, and money to spreading conservative ideals the central tenets of the American Dream -- in every forum possible. Get involved in campaigns; do a stint in local or state government; or take a pro bono case defending a state or local government under attack from a liberal special interest group.
Pay attention to judicial appointments in state courts as well as federal courts. Most of the law in this country is practiced in state courts and they have a huge impact on the fate of our policies. As governor, I look for one trait above all others in judicial appointments: an inclination for judicial restraint. I want to appoint judges who will understand, as the U.S. Supreme Court once explained, that law is something more than mere will exerted as an act of power.
The election is over. We may not be happy with the current occupant of the White House, but the question is: What are you going to do about it? Will you take action or stay on the sidelines? Will you join the fight for conservative solutions with states like Florida, where we are fighting for families by creating jobs, improving education, and keeping the cost of living low?
The time for arguing over who caused our problems has ended. Now, it is time to take a break from the campaigning and implement real solutions. We are doing it in Florida. It can be done anywhere.
I am challenging you to get in the ring.
Our ideas are either worth fighting for everywhere, or theyre not worth fighting for anywhere.