TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Gov. Rick Scott, who was elected to office with the slogan "Let's get to work," proclaimed several times "It's working" during his State of the State address Monday.
Scott touted Florida's improved unemployment numbers and 200,000 non-government jobs that have been created since he took office in 2011 and urged lawmakers to continue to make the state more business-friendly by eliminating the sales tax on manufacturing equipment.
Jobs and education were the main points in Scott's third State of the State speech, one that comes as he prepares to seek re-election.
"I believe Florida will be the number one place in the world for job creation, the number one place in the world to get a great education, and the number one place in the world where families can afford to live," Scott said in the prepared version of the speech.
The speech comes as the Legislature begins its annual 60-day session. Scott spent much of the speech talking about his mother, Esther, who died in November, saying that the values he learned from her are a guide to his approach to governing.
"My mom, the wife of a WWII veteran, had a simple formula for raising kids. We had to go to church - a lot; do well in school and get a job. She taught us that, in America, hard work plus sacrifice means you could make your dreams come true," Scott said. "The longer I live, the more I am convinced that my mom was right - not just for our family, but for every family."
He evoked his mother again while explaining why he is supporting an expansion of Medicaid under President Barack Obama's health care overhaul after spending years fighting the plan.
"As I wrestled with this decision, I thought about my mom and her struggles to get my little brother the care he needed with very little money," Scott said. "I concluded that for the three years the federal government is committed to paying 100 percent of the cost of new people in Medicaid, I cannot, in good conscience, deny the uninsured access to care."
Scott also pushed for his proposed $2,500 across the board pay raise for teachers, and answered critics who say it's hypocritical to suggest the raise for all teachers two years after signing a bill to create a merit pay system for teachers.
"Some say they are afraid that giving raises to all teachers may mean that a teacher doing a bad job gets rewarded. But, thanks to our work, we are now in a better position than ever before to reward good teachers and move bad teachers out of the classroom," Scott said. "We don't want a war on teachers, we want a war on failure."
Scott also answered skeptics who say Florida's job growth is part of the recovery of the U.S. economy and the governor shouldn't get the credit.
"We came into office saying we wanted to create an environment that would encourage businesses to add 700,000 jobs over 7 years," Scott said. "The debate was about whether or not this goal was even possible. Now, there is a debate about how to count all the jobs being created, and who should get credit for it. Maybe it is because I am not a politician, but I think this is a great debate to have."
He ended the speech with the phrase he repeated seven times earlier.
"I look forward to joining with all of you as we put Florida families first, and send a message to the world that Florida is serious about job creation," Scott said. "It's working."
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Sunny, dry and humid today with possible record highs today. No rain in sight, but plenty of humidity.