Florida Gov. Rick Scott tells Newsmax TV that letting young immigrants pay lower, in-state college tuition, even if they're undocumented, will help them prosper and — while they're at it — become productive, tax-paying Floridians.
"If you grew up in our state, you ought to have the same in-state tuition as your peers," Scott told "America's Forum" host John Bachman in a wide-ranging, exclusive sit-down interview scheduled to be shown Thursday on Newsmax TV
. "We want you to do well. We're a great melting pot."
Scott is in a battle for re-election against the last occupant of the governor's mansion, Republican-turned-Democrat Charlie Crist. With both candidates conscious of Florida's growing Hispanic electorate, Scott's second-term pitch finds him reaching out on several fronts — including television, where his first Spanish-language ad of the campaign recently aired.
Another ad featuring Scott's grandson
Auguste shows a more personal, familial side of the governor.
Mainly, Scott is touting the state's economic recovery from the financial collapse of 2007-08, which hit Florida especially hard.
"If you go back to 2010, I ran on a campaign to get our state back to work," Scott said. "The state had lost 832,000 jobs under Charlie Crist in four years. [The] unemployment rate had gone from 2.5 to 11.1 percent."
As of today, he said, "The private sector has added 600,000 jobs, and unemployment is down to 6.2 percent — below the national average, I think, for eight or nine months in a row."
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Scott portrayed his turnaround on in-state tuition
for undocumented immigrants as another case of cleaning up a mess left by Crist that hurt all Floridians pursuing college degrees.
"My goal was since I've been in this is [to] reduce tuition for everybody," he said, adding that under Crist, "our universities started raising tuition 15 percent a year."
"How many families are seeing their income go up 15 percent a year?" said Scott. "What I focused on was, let's get rid of the 15 percent increase."
Scott, a former hospital executive, also defended blocking an Obamacare-based Medicaid expansion for uninsured Floridians — a stance for which Crist has roundly criticized Scott. Scott said the better course was a statewide fix to Medicare in 2011 — approved by the Obama administration in 2013 — that he said helps more Floridians get needed treatment.
He also criticized Obamacare.
"It's causing all sorts of problems in our state," he said. "We have people losing their plans, which is the opposite of what the president said. They're losing their doctors, which is opposite of what the president said. We have Medicare Advantage, which is a successful program, being raided to pay for Obamacare, and we're seeing rates go up. So that's what the problem right now with Obamacare is."
Scott talked about the growing cloud over government-run healthcare for U.S. armed service members. Miami is home to a major hospital run by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Scott himself is a U.S. Navy veteran and the son of a World War II Army veteran.
Scott said the VA needs new leadership at the top — starting with an exit for Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki — and a re-evaluation of its approach to health care.
"I think the way to do it is, let's think about the veteran," said Scott. "That's who we ought to be taking care of. What's best for them? Whoever is going to provide the best care for them."
If a particular VA facility isn't up to the job but a private hospital is, "then that's what we ought to be doing," said Scott.
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