New Florida governor promises to add jobs and cut tax
TALLAHASSEE, Florida – Former hospital executive and political novice Rick Scott was sworn in as Florida governor on Tuesday and he promised to create jobs, reduce government regulation and eliminate the states corporate income tax.
Scott, a 58-year-old Republican, took the oath of office on the steps of the old state capitol building in Tallahassee. In his inaugural address, he said job creation would be his top priority.
«Florida has to offer business people the biggest opportunity for financial success,» Scott said. «Not a guarantee, just a fair chance. Three forces markedly reduce that chance of success — taxation, regulation and litigation. Those three form the axis of unemployment.»
Florida is struggling to recover from the collapse of its housing market and its unemployment rate hovers at 12 percent, factors that Scott said «left a trail of destruction as bad as any hurricane.»
He told a crowd of supporters he would focus on increasing healthcare options, reducing civil litigation while cutting costs and eliminating the red tape he blames for hampering Floridas economic recovery. He also promised to phase out the corporate income tax that brings in $2 billion a year of revenue.
«Whether the national government takes the right steps or not, here in Florida we have what we need to make the next four years the most exciting time to live and work in Florida,» Scott said.
STATEWIDE TOUR, BLACK-TIE DINNER, TRIBUTES
Scott defeated Democrat Alex Sink, the states outgoing chief financial officer, after spending more than $70 million of his own money. Scott, former CEO of Columbia/HCA Health Care, has a net worth of about $218 million.
During the campaign, Sink tried to keep the spotlight on Scotts leadership of Columbia/HCA, which paid $1.7 billion in fines to settle the largest Medicare fraud case in U.S. history in the late 1990s. Scott was never charged in the Medicare case and said he did not know about the fraud when he was chief executive.
Scotts pro-business platform played well with the inaugural crowd, which included many large contributors. Representatives from U.S. Sugar Corp and Florida Crystals Corp. had front row seats at the ceremony, during which Scott promised to protect businesses from civil litigation.
«We will not allow excessive lawsuits to strangle job creation,» Scott said. «And we will not allow a small group of predatory lawyers to stalk the business community in search of deep pockets.»
Bucking recent austerity trends, his inaugural committee used nearly $3.5 million in private contributions to fund a two-day slate of inaugural activities that included a statewide tour, a black-tie dinner and tributes to military personnel and women.
Tuesdays festivities started with a prayer breakfast at Florida A&M University, a historically black college that has held the prayer venue for many an incoming governor.
In his first official action, Scott signed an executive order preventing agencies from writing regulations until a newly created Office of Fiscal Accountability and Regulatory Reform reviews and approves the rules. That office also will review every state contract over $1 million.