Rick Scott inauguration: Calls for state to be global leader in jobs


Rick Scott was sworn-in for a second term as Florida’s governor Tuesday, setting a goal of making the state the global leader in job creation while boosting spending on education and cutting the size of government.

Scott’s inaugural address reflected on Florida’s recovery from the depths of the recession, which faced him when first taking office in January 2011. The Republican governor recalled that analysts at the time said it would take many years for the state to rebound.

“But, we proved them wrong, and when I say that ‘we’ proved them wrong, I mean the hard-working people of Florida proved them wrong,” Scott told about 2,000 people gathered for the inaugural.

Seated near Scott on the sun-drenched east steps of the Old Capitol were outgoing Texas Gov. Rick Perry and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Of Florida’s six living ex-governors, only the oldest, 92-year-old Wayne Mixson, and Bob Martinez attended.

Also sworn-in were Florida’s re-elected Cabinet members, all Republicans: Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, a former Palm Beach County state legislator.

Scott was administered the oath of office as the state’s 45th governor by Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga. Following a cannon salute and flyover by four military aircraft, Scott addressed the crowd.

“You have heard me constantly talk about jobs since I ran in 2010,” Scott said. “I want to promise you I will never stop.

“I will be working to make Florida number one in job opportunities and growth right up to the last day I serve as your governor. Jobs for Florida families have been my focus every single day for the last four years … and jobs will continue to be my mission for the next four years.”

Scott set a goal for himself in the coming term: to unseat Texas as the nation’s leader in new job openings and to work toward becoming the global leader in job creation.

At the mention of surpassing Texas, Perry, a possible presidential contender in 2016, good-naturedly wagged an index finger at Scott.

After the speech, Christie, who also could be angling for a White House run, said that the Florida governor would be smart to maintain the course set over his first term.

“Any advice for Gov. Scott?” Christie repeated. “Just keep being himself. If he continues to do the things he’s done over the first four years, Florida will do really, really well.”

Florida Democrats, whose gubernatorial nominee, Charlie Crist, lost by a one-percent margin — 64,000 votes – challenged Scott’s portrayal of Florida as an economic success story.

“As Rick Scott starts his second term, Floridians are wondering if this governor will do right by them – or if he will continue to side with big business and the wealthiest special interests,” said Florida Democratic Party Chair Allison Tant.

“Over half of Floridians did not vote for Rick Scott, and Florida Democrats hope Scott governs on behalf of all Floridians, because the people need this governor to put them first,” she added.

Tant also criticized Scott for repeating in his inaugural address the claim that he already had met a pledge from his first campaign to create 700,000 jobs over seven years.

Scott last month declared an early victory by citing employment statistics, which show 715,700 jobs created since December 2010.

But with state economists then predicting that Florida would add about 1 million jobs by 2018, Scott said his 700,000 pledge was “on top of what normal growth would be,” or about 1.7 million jobs.

Scott has been walking that back ever since.

Tant said Scott on Tuesday “misled the public by claiming to have met his promise to create new jobs – while hundreds of thousands of middle-class Floridians are still looking for work.”

Several West Palm Beach-area residents also got a turn at the microphone during a prayer breakfast at nearby Florida A&M University, which opened the inaugural festivities.

Palm Beach Day Academy 8th grader Francesca Alfano sang the national anthem. Palm Beach Rabbi Moshe Scheiner delivered a thoughtful reading while also managing to work in references to single malt Scotch and the power of divine inspiration.

Rev. Mathieu Jean-Baptiste of West Palm Beach delivered the benediction at the breakfast. He noted that while his congregation at United Haitian Baptist Church prayed for Crist and Scott last fall, the governor was “here today as the choice of God for Florida.”

In his inaugural address, Scott sought to balance the look back on an improving economy with the promise for more results in his second term.

He also put governors in at least four other states on notice that he is looking to pull jobs from them to Florida in his coming term – and is planning personal visits to woo companies.

Florida recently passed New York as the nation’s third largest state, which Scott said is proof that people “are voting with their feet.”

“In Florida, we are proving that government can do better without getting bigger,” Scott told the inaugural crowd, comprised mostly of campaign supporters, lobbyists, legislators and Republican leaders from around the state.

Scott also said he was reprising the “one-way ticket” campaign he launched in 2013, when he blanketed several states led by Democratic governors with letters urging business leaders to move their companies to Florida.

The campaign sparked friction among some out-of-state leaders, who said Scott was merely out to “poach” jobs.

“I have a message today to the people of New York, Illinois, California, Pennsylvania and others: move to Florida,” Scott said. “We want you to keep more of the money you make because we understand it’s your money.”

In a departure with tradition, Scott also handed the microphone to regular citizens to make his case. Several people who recently landed jobs were selected by the Scott administration to speak during the ceremony.

One, Danny Reyna of Bonita Springs, had left the state shortly after graduating from Florida Gulf Coast University, but returned for a job at Arthrex, a medical device company where Scott has campaigned.

“I was truly blessed that Arthrex was able to expand so people like me could get jobs,” Reyna said.

Former Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, described the address as “the essential Rick Scott.

“There’s one thing we’ve learned about the governor in four years: He’s about jobs, jobs and jobs,” Gaetz said. “You don’t expect to hear Rick Scott provide a laundry list of government programs he wants to see grow.”

But for Democrats, still stinging from an election that saw Crist defeated and the party’s influence in the Legislature diminished, Rep. Alan Williams, D-Tallahassee, said he only hopes Scott makes good on hints of bipartisanship he aired in his speech.

“If the governor is serious that the campaign is over, then we are ready to keep him committed to that,” Williams said. “If he will have a real dialogue, allowing Democratic viewpoints on policy, we’d welcome that with open arms.”



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