Gov. Rick Scott, in Jacksonville for a series of meetings, praised today’s jobs report, saying the work he and state lawmakers did earlier this year is helping to turn the state around.
The news is especially welcome as the holiday season approaches, Scott told reporters at The Jacksonville Landing overlooking the St. Johns River.
“With the holiday season starting, it’s nice to have some encouraging news. Our unemployment is continuing to drop,” Scott said.
Florida’s unemployment rate dropped slightly last month, down .3 from 10.6 percent in September to 10.3 percent and down from 12 percent in January. Palm Beach County’s jobless rate is the lowest in two years. Scott said the state has added 106,900 jobs since he took office this year.
“So it’s encouraging. It’s good it’s happening right now. We have to keep after it. We still have 900,000 people out of work but we’re headed in the right direction,” said Scott, whose pledge to bring 700,000 jobs to Florida in seven years was a cornerstone of his campaign for governor.
Floridians are more confident because the governor and legislature lowered taxes for small businesses and because Scott’s administration is more business-friendly, the governor said.
“The attitude has really changed. They know we’re going to balance their budget without raising taxes or borrowing more money. This is the first year in 20 years we didn’t borrow more money. This is the first year we paid down the debt in 20 years. We’ve been increasing the debt in this state by $1 billion a year for 20 years,” Scott said.
“I think they feel good that we’ve started the process of reducing the business tax for smaller companies. And the property tax for homeowners and for businesses. I think the other thing is the individuals I’ve appointed to these agencies…They have an attitude that they’re going to help business people solve problems if they can. If they can’t, they can’t. and they’re going to tell them quickly. Because what a business person wants, they want certainty. If you’re not going to approve something, don’t approve it. But say it up front. Don’t say it in two years or five years,” the former health care executive said.
As he often does when speaking of Florida’s job creation success, Scott mentioned his competitor-in-chief, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who apparently one-upped the Sunshine State again.
Although Florida created more jobs than Texas last month, the Lone Star State’s corporate climate was ranked top in the nation by executives. Florida ranked fourth, Scott said.
“I talked with him the other day and of course what he brings up…I told him how we beat him last month in job creation and there’s a site selector survey, did you see that, where they won that. We’re number four,” Scott said, adding that he asked his staff to find out what Florida’s ranking was last year.
As for taking credit for the state’s incremental unemployment turn-around, Scott wouldn’t bite.
“I’m always cautious about that,” he said with a grin.
Scott was supposed to have lunch with legislators from the region at the riverfront shopping plaza but the meeting was canceled, his staff said.