Florida Gov. Rick Scott tells Newsmax that his state has slashed unemployment by balancing its budget, cutting taxes and regulations, and paying down debt, and the federal government should follow that recipe to deal with its own fiscal crisis.
The first-term Republican also says he’s “open to ideas” when asked if he favors arming teachers, and says fellow Floridians Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio would make “great presidents.”
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In an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV, Scott says the key question regarding the impending fiscal cliff should be how any approach to deal with it will impact jobs.
“It’s the number one issue and I don’t think there’s enough conversation about how all of those decisions impact the jobs for every family in this country.
“I’m responsible for 19 million people who live in our state. I’m concerned about higher taxes. I’m concerned about the federal deficit. In our state, we’re doing well. We’ve had the biggest drop in unemployment in the country. It’s because we live within our means. We’ve paid down our debt. We’ve done the things that we know are going to increase jobs. I just wish the federal government would do the exact same thing.
“Every tax increase impacts jobs because what you’re doing is taking money that a family would spend in different areas. And when those families spend that, whether it’s going to a restaurant or buying groceries or buying a house or buying a car, whatever they’re doing when they don’t have that money, whoever was providing those goods and services, they don’t have a job. So I’m very concerned when government’s first solution is to raise taxes. It always impacts jobs.
“Here’s what I’ve had to do: I walked in my first year with a $3.7 billion budget deficit. My second year was projected a $1.7 billion budget deficit. I had to find efficiencies in government. I’ve got a business background. What you do in business is you know you cannot just keep raising prices. So you’ve got to figure out how to do whatever you’re doing less expensively. You’ve got to create efficiencies. You’ve got to find waste.
“So that’s what I’ve done and, by doing that, we’ve dramatically increased education funding — over a billion dollars more for K-12 — and jobs are coming back. We’ve done exactly what the federal government ought to be doing. We’ve balanced our budget, we’ve paid down our debts, we lowered taxes, not increased taxes, and that’s why jobs are growing in our state.”
Florida’s unemployment rate stood at about 11.4 percent when Scott took office, and it’s now down to 8.5 percent.
Jobs have come back to Florida “because we’ve lowered taxes and have less regulation,” Scott tells Newsmax. “We’ve streamlined permitting — we like businesses in our state now. Consumer confidence is up. Our workforce, last month, filled 45,000 jobs. That’s 45,000 more families in our state that now can put food on the table, can buy Christmas presents, can go shopping, can afford the rent or afford their home.
“Tourism is up. Almost 90 million people came this year. Exports are up. New home prices are up. Home sales are up. New home construction’s up. So we’re doing the right things and I’m very optimistic that the next two years are going to be like the first two years where we’re going to have significant reduction in unemployment.”
Florida is one of 25 states that have refused to implement their own health insurance exchanges in response to Obamacare.
Scott, who formerly headed a healthcare company, says: “I’ve been asking to have a meeting with [Health and Human Services] Secretary [Kathleen] Sebelius to understand how this exchange is going to reduce healthcare costs.
“We have a very good safety net in our state. I want to constantly improve it for those that can’t afford their own healthcare but the way to fix healthcare is to lower healthcare costs and help people get a job.”
Scott says that in the wake of the horrific massacre in Newtown, Conn., “I asked all of our schools in the state to review their safety precautions. Are we doing the right things here? Are we letting families know that we are doing the right things? Are there any ideas that they have to improve the safety for our children?
As for Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s call for a discussion on arming school officials, Scott says: “I’m always open to ideas to understand how we can reduce our crime rate. Whenever something happens, you always open your ears to listen to more things.”
Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio and former Gov. Jeb Bush are being touted to run for president in 2016. Regarding that prospect, Scott tells Newsmax: “It would be great. Both of them would be great presidents. They care about our country. They clearly care about our state. They’re passionate Americans concerned about your opportunity to live the American dream.”
Florida encountered problems during the November election, including long lines at the polls, which Scott says he found “frustrating. So what I ask is our secretary of state to go talk to supervisors of elections. In our state, all but one of our supervisors of elections are elected. Some are Republicans, some are Democrats. I said, what are your ideas? Why did it take so long for people to vote? Why did it take so long for you to get the secretary of state’s office the results?
“Here’s the three things right now that we ought to focus on: One, our ballots are too long. In Miami-Dade County, the ballot was 12 pages. It takes way too long to go through that ballot. Two, we need to give our supervisors of elections more authority to have bigger polling areas. And three, we’ve got to look at more early voting days.
“We’ve got to restore the confidence that every Floridian would want to register to vote if they have a right to vote. I’m proud that we have the right to the safe database, so if you don’t have a right to vote in our state, we know and we don’t let you register to vote. If you do register to vote, get involved in your races. Get to know the candidates and then go out and vote.”
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