Gov. Rick Scott welcomed back the Legislature to an election-year session yesterday with an upbeat State of the State speech that centered on creating jobs, holding the line on taxes and spending more on schools.
Addressing a packed House chamber and live TV audience in a halting delivery, Scott struck a cooperative tone and mostly played it safe with his priorities. The Republican governor demanded that lawmakers spend $1 billion more for schools after a $1.3 billion school budget cut last year, an about-face Democrats later mocked as shallow and poll-driven.
“On this point, I just can’t budge,” Scott told lawmakers, whose desks were covered with colorful flower baskets. “I ask you again today to send me a budget that significantly increases state funding for education. This is the single most important decision we can make today for Florida’s future.”
The call for additional education funding was one of the few policy specifics in Scott’s 33-minute talk.
About 50 “Occupy the Capitol” protesters chanted and waved signs in the Capitol’s Rotunda, but they were blocked by security personnel from sitting in the visitors’ gallery. Scott, escorted by law enforcement agents, was able to enter the House without directly coming into contact with them. The group also was denied entry to the Senate and complained that Senate deputies kept them out of the public gallery because of how they looked and dressed.
Similar protests took place in Tampa and 18 other cities by Progress Florida, Florida Public Interest Research Group and other grass-roots organizations that said the policies of Scott and Republican lawmakers hurt the middle class.
Scott’s speech came on a day when a new Quinnipiac University poll showed him still unpopular with a majority of Floridians. The poll showed 50% of the people disapprove of his job as governor and 38% approve. But Scott can take some comfort in the fact that the Legislature ranked lower in the Quinnipiac poll, with 49% disapproving of its performance and 33% approving.
More details on Scott's slash and burn policies can be read at the Miami Herald.