rick_scott_web_11.jpgGov. Rick Scott used his first State of the State address Tuesday to affirm his plan for chopping billions of dollars from public education and other services while offering tax cuts for businesses.

In his speech at the opening of the 60-day Legislative session, Scott struck an optimistic note about his proposal to eliminate $4.6 billion from the state budget while, at the same time, giving $2 billion in tax breaks to corporations and property owners.

Teachers across the state have been staging demonstrations in various locations, including the Capitol, since the budget was unveiled recently for the opening of the new session.
Acknowledging that his plan probably won’t make him “most popular,” Scott insisted that it is one that will put the state back on a fiscal track.

“A majority of legislators were elected, as I was, on our promise of smaller government, lower taxes, less regulation, support for job-creation, individual opportunity, individual accountability and more freedom,” Scott said.

The healthcare executive who has held no previous elected position, has sharply divided opinion in Florida on how to get out of a deep budget hole, similar to what is being witnessed in other states. But the Republican governor has the advantage of a GOP super-majority in the Legislature that could make for relatively easy passage of his $65.9 billion budget proposal.

At the same time, some GOP legislative leaders have already started to balk at the idea of reducing the state allocation of dollars to public schools by $700 per student while cutting taxes. It has started to become clear that the Scott budget will besubstantially reshaped in the weeks ahead.

However, most Republican lawmakers who have given interviews have been generally supportive of Scott’s approach to what he considers the best way to create jobs and secure
Florida’s future.

“The troubles we face today are the programmatic remnants of a government that was too large, too complacent and too wasteful; a government whose structural weaknesses were harshly exposed by the stress test that is this recession,” Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, said in a Palm Beach Post story.

Democratic lawmakers, who have been in the minority for at least a decade, can do little more than complain.

“He’s somehow blaming the government for the recession when it was the excesses of Wall Street that caused it,” Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando, said in a story in StAugustine.com

“Let’s see: Fourteen years of Republican control and $14 billion corporate, special-interest tax breaks. Now to come and say we have a
budget problem… is ludicrous,” Randolph said.

So far, little has been heard from Jennifer Carroll, who ran on Scott’s gubernatorial ticket to become the first black lieutenant governor. Supporters of Carroll, especially in the African-American community, had hoped she would be a voice for the more needy segments of the state’s population. However, as is customary, she has been taking a back seat as Scott pushes what he describes as “the most fiscally conservative state budget in the country.”