Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Scott Has a Simple, Focused Message

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Scott Has a Simple, Focused Message

Article excerpt

As Gov. Rick Scott gears up for a re-election campaign next year, he talks confidently.

Never mind poll numbers showing a majority of voters still don't approve of him. His opponents should beware.

"It's working" is his new mantra, which is an update on the "Let's get to work" theme that helped get him elected on the singular focus of growing jobs in Florida.

Now he can boast that for the first time in five years, Florida's improving unemployment rate has fallen below the national average.

Also Scott has grown and evolved in office, relishes listening and engaging with constituents, has learned to compromise and has improved his top staff.

And his political shift from the right toward the middle of the road on some issues may resonate with voters.

During a wide-ranging discussion with the Times-Union's editorial board last week, Scott provided straightforward answers for his key topics and swatted aside queries he didn't want to answer.

Questions about the issues raised by the forced ouster of Florida State College at Jacksonville's former president were met with Scott's themes of being conservative with taxpayer money.

He ordered an inquiry into severance agreements for all college presidents after Steve Wallace was awarded a package worth more than $1 million despite the waste, mismanagement and lavish travel and entertainment expenses that led to his resignation.

"I don't understand why we would be spending that kind of money on things like that," Scott said, recalling that his community college tuition was $200 a semester.

"What public purpose does it serve?" Scott said that should be the test for whether and how much severance should be in future contracts. He noted that none of his top appointees have severance agreements.

And he left little doubt that the several appointments he will soon make to FSCJ's board will be better stewards of taxpayer money.

On other topics, Scott was forthcoming - except when he didn't want to be.

Filling FSCJ board of trustees vacancies. He sends reading materials to potential trustees and plans to ask them about their views on tuition increases, tenure, measuring professor productivity and other topics.

His views on gay marriage. "I've been married since I was 19, so I believe in traditional marriage," he said after pointing out that Floridians voted in 2008 to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage and civil unions.

In light of a majority now favoring such unions, Scott was pressed about whether he might join other politicians in changing his views: "My focus would be on $2,500 raises for teachers and getting rid of the sales tax on manufacturing."

GOP's quest to attract minorities. Scott said he couldn't talk about the GOP outside of Florida, and he switched to a familiar theme when he said he talks to people from all walks of life and ethnicities. …

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