Gov. Rick Scott is already running for reelection, and, boy, does he have a story to sell you.
The best pollsters money can buy are telling Rick Scott that he can boost his chances with public relations stunts and press conferences, telling you what you want to hear — not what he’s actually doing. What Rick Scott is really doing is hurting Florida’s families and holding our economy back. Truth is, we’re barely treading water. In August, thousands more Floridians dropped out of the workforce. What is Rick Scott doing to improve our economy?
One of his stunts has been to send letters to businesses in other states, begging them to come to Florida. The response? Crickets. That’s because a strong leader doesn’t wheedle with corporations in other states. A strong leader builds an economy so appealing that businesses jump at the chance to move there.
Now, Rick Scott has announced a $500 million tax package for his well-connect supporters and corporations, and is asking them for advice on what special tax breaks they need. We have heard this story before. For years, Rick Scott has been giving lucrative deals to his supporters and tax breaks to some of the same big businesses that support his reelection. The middle class gets hurt, and regular taxpayers get stuck paying the bill.
Rick Scott’s special favors and bag of press tricks aren’t working, but Floridians are hurting. The unemployment rate has been stagnant for months, with hundreds of thousands of people out of work. Just this month, Florida lost thousands of jobs. When job-seekers do find a place to work hard, often those jobs aren’t well-paying. Even worse, Florida’s unemployed are among the most discouraged in the country; they don’t see any help on the horizon.
Across America, consumer confidence rose this summer, but in Florida confidence in our economy fell. That means Floridians are less likely to do all the things that help grow our economy — from going to a movie to buying a house — while Florida continues to lead the nation in the number of mortgage foreclosures.
Rick Scott’s plan to restore marketplace confidence and heal our battered economy? Press releases. Photo-ops. Special favors for campaign contributors and big corporations. But all the public relations stunts in the world don’t add up to leadership, and millions of dollars in taxpayer giveaways aren’t an economic turnaround strategy. From rejecting funding for high-speed rail to failing to pass Medicaid expansion, Gov. Scott has us stuck in neutral.
That’s why Floridians have lost faith in Rick Scott. He’s lost their trust, too, by trying to weasel out of promises he made less than three years ago. Rick Scott falsely claims to be “more than halfway” to his job creation goal, but the truth is that he is not even halfway to halfway. Gov. Scott makes promises, but he’s proven you can’t trust him.
Rick Scott wants to pretend he’s helping Florida’s economy, but he’s actually responsible for holding us back. Over the next year, we can expect even more reelection gimmicks, designed to distract voters from his real record on the economy — a record of giving big tax breaks to special interests at the expense of middle-class Floridians. Next November, Florida’s families will hold him accountable.
(This op-ed was published in the Palm Beach Post on 9/24/13)