In what was his most personally felt State of the State speech so far, Gov. Rick Scott Tuesday delivered an impassioned plea for Florida’s economic development organization and business incentives targeted for elimination by the House of Representatives.
House Speaker Richard Corcoran is seeking to abolish Enterprise Florida and other financial programs he has termed “corporate welfare.” Though the Senate is not backing the House’s moves, Scott fought back, criticizing the negative narrative.
The governor, who once ran the privately-held Columbia/HCA hospital and health care chain, told a joint session of the state’s House and Senate that he knew “what it’s like to be poor.”
“I have lived in poverty,” said Scott, repeating his rags-to-riches story. “I watched my parents struggle to put food on the table. When most kids were playing Little League or riding bikes, I had a job … I went from delivering papers, to opening a small business so my mom could have a job, to running the nation’s largest health care company.”
Tuesday’s speech opening the 2017 Legislative Session is Scott’s second-to-last State of the State address. With less than two years left in office, the governor is beginning to eye his legacy.
“It’s easy to throw out catch phrases like ‘picking winners and losers’ and ‘corporate welfare,’ ” he said. “(T)hat’s not what we are doing. We are competing with 49 other states and hundreds of countries for jobs. When we bring new jobs to Florida, there are only winners.
“… I will admit it is probably more difficult for people who have never gone hungry, or gone through foreclosure, or seen their family car repossessed, to understand this,” Scott said.
“If you have never lived through these experiences, it may be harder to understand the urgency. I will just leave it like this: I am fighting for our state’s job programs because I am fighting for families just like mine growing up.”
The governor still had time for moments of levity, however, as when he greeted the state’s Supreme Court justices: “You look great in your robes, by the way,” he said, mentioning his appointed of the court’s newest member, C. Alan Lawson.
He also said he and wife Ann were expecting twin grandchildren soon, making six since he took office, then joked that his daughter must have taken his slogan literally: “Let’s get to work.”
Scott also took a moment to thank former Senate President and current state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater for his service. Atwater is resigning at the end of the legislative session to take a similar position with Florida Atlantic University.
He took note of last year’s Pulse nightclub shooting, thanking Orlando Police Chief John Mina and Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings for the law enforcement response, singling out SWAT officer Michael Napolitano, whose Kevlar helmet stopped a bullet to his head.
Napolitano and fellow officers demonstrate “the courage to serve in the face of evil,” Scott said.