Jeb Bush, Florida's first two-term Republican governor, accomplished a lot during his eight-year tenure from 1999 to 2007, bringing both fiscally and socially conservative values to the office.
During his presidential campaign kickoff this summer, Bush touted his economic record above all else, knowing that it’s the No. 1 issue voters have prioritized in the lagging Obama economy.
"We made Florida No. 1 in job creation," he said. "We will make the United States an economic superpower like no other."
Gathered below are 15 of Bush's biggest accomplishments as Florida governor.
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— Florida added more than 1.3 million jobs under Bush, a huge boom compared to other states on both an absolute and per-capita basis. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that, in comparison, Texas added 2.25 million jobs during Rick Perry's 14 years as governor, and Wisconsin added 162,000 jobs during Scott Walker's first four-year term, The Des Moines Register reported.
— Florida's unemployment rate was only 3.4 percent when Bush left office in 2007, a full point below the national average, according to CNN
— Bush has never signed Grover Norquist’s "no new tax" pledge, but did slash Florida's taxes by $19 billion, offering sales tax holidays, cutting emissions fees, and reducing investor taxes, among other things.
— In addition to cutting taxes directly, Bush reduced the size of the state government by privatizing foster care, adoption services, legal representation for death row prisoners, human resources, state purchasing, and state parks. Altogether, he moved 13,000 positions off of the state payroll — more than 10 percent of the government in Florida.
5. Economic growth
— Under Bush, the Florida economy grew by 7.2 percent, on average, while the U.S. grew by 5 percent during the same period. During his campaign, Bush has said that he could achieve an annual economic growth of 4 percent as president, adding 19 million jobs.
6. Cash reserves
— Under Bush's leadership, the state went from having $1.3 billion to $9.8 billion in cash reserves — a whopping 654-percent increase.
7. Bond rating
— Florida achieved a AAA credit rating for the first time under Gov. Bush after receiving multiple upgrades. By comparison, New Jersey has been downgraded several times under Gov. Chris Christie.
— Florida became the first state to have "choose life" license plates during Bush's tenure, and the fees helped pregnant women. As governor, he opposed embryonic stem cell research, supported abortion restrictions, and fought to keep Terri Schiavo — a brain-injury patient — alive during a years-long public battle.
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9. Death penalty
— "Since 1994, criminals have murdered more than 5,600 people in our state," he wrote in an August 2000 email, voicing his support for the death penalty, according to Politico
. "During that same time, only 15 convicted murderers have been executed and delays keep increasing, not decreasing. Today, the victims’ families and the people of Florida are forced to wait an average of 14 years to see justice. I believe that justice delayed is justice denied, and our goal is to have capital cases resolved within five years."
10. Faith-based prisons
— According to The Daily Beast, the governor opened
the nation's first entirely faith-based prison at Lawtey Correctional Institution in North Florida after signing legislation in 2003. Run with much more volunteer labor from churches near the prisons, the facility has improved the quality of life for inmates and, by 2009, had a waiting list of nearly 10,000 people trying to get in.
11. Affirmative action
— The Des Moines Register reported that Bush ended
the practice via executive order for state workers and state contractors, and also ended it in university admissions with help from the Board of Regents.
— Unlike many governors, Bush was very focused on education reform throughout his tenure. He established Florida's first state-wide voucher program, expanded charter schools, and instituted standardized testing. Private-school scholarships were given to students at schools that didn't pass the performance tests for two out of four years.
— As governor, Bush moved Medicaid recipients to private managed-care plans, reducing the costs to taxpayers. If he becomes president, Bush has said he'll repeal and replace Obamacare, getting rid of the individual and employer mandates.
— Bush is a strong supporter of the Second Amendment, and received an A+ from the National Rifle Association after signing the nation's first "stand your ground" legislation. Using the "castle doctrine," the law reduced the liability of gun owners who shoot home intruders under a reasonable suspicion of bodily threat.
15. Crisis management
— According to The Miami Herald, "Nine hurricanes
slammed into Florida during Bush’s time in office, eight of them in a dizzying, 14-month span in 2004-05 — a record-breaking number that defined Bush as a steady executive in the face of disaster . . . Bush’s ability to take charge in an emergency remains undisputed even among his critics, who note he left the Governor’s Mansion 15 months after the last storm with a high, 64-percent approval rating."
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