We spoke with the governor about his hopes for this legislative session, his political turn to the left, his support of Medicaid expansion and teacher raises, the issue of illegal internet cafes, guns, jobs, property insurance and a proposed texting-while-driving ban.
HIS POLITICAL SHIFT
The governor's recent support of across-the-board teacher raises and federal Medicaid expansion seems like a 180-degree turn from his earlier days in office. The multi-millionaire former hospitals executive says he understands the hardships of being poor because he wasn't always so wealthy.
"Growing up, my parents struggled to have jobs," said Gov. Scott. "My dad had his car repossessed. I've had all those struggles in my life. I know that the education system is very important to living the American dream. I made the tough choices. Now we're making smart choices."
The governor has also stuck his neck out on federal Medicaid expansion. He started his term vehemently opposed to Obamacare. Now he supports Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, which would provide healthcare coverage to over a million uninsured residents. He says last year's U.S. Supreme Court decision made him a realist.
"It's (now) the law of the land. I can't in good conscience say -- while we all pay the taxes for the President's healthcare law, and they're gonna pay 100% of it -- I can't in good conscience say for those that don't have access to healthcare, they're not going to get it."
WHAT'S IN A POLL?
A new survey of Floridians from Quinnipiac shows just 32 percent think the Governor deserves a second term, and would lose now by a wide margin to former governor and now Democrat Charlie Crist. Just 38 percent said they approve of the job Scott is doing. However, while most respondents don't like the governor's job performance, they do like his policies.
Scott's proposal to give every public school teacher $2,500 bonuses has overwhelming support -- 74 percent. And 50 percent of voters back his support for expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
So, what gives?
"The poll that matters is November 2014," said Scott. "And what Floridians are going to say is: Did Governor Scott do what he said he was going to? Is our economy better? It is. It's working. Is our education system better? It is. It's working."
IS THE LEGISLATURE ON THE SAME PAGE
But the governor has already gotten some resistance from the Florida Legislature, which does not seem to see eye-to-eye with him on Medicaid expansion or across the board teacher bonuses.
"I'm confident the legislature will go along with me, the things I believe in, because they're the right things."
A NEW LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR
Recently, a state and federal investigation into internet cafés revealed that one of them--Allied Veterans--had been posing as a charity, but fronting illegal gambling operations. The investigation yielded dozens of arrests and led to the resignation of Lieutenant Governor Jennifer Carroll, who did consulting work for Allied. What is he looking for in her replacement?
"I'm not going to start on this until the end of the session. But I'll go through a process and pick somebody that would be the most qualified to be governor if I'm not here."
Florida's jobless rate has dipped to its lowest level in more than four years, now at 7.8%. That's the lowest since November 2008, and it's the first time the state's rate is below the national rate (7.9%) in five years.
Does he deserve the credit?
"We've had great progress, going from losing 800,000 jobs in three years, to gaining almost 300,000 jobs in two years," the governor said. "Unemployment [has seen] the second biggest drop of any state in the country. We have to keep it up. I've eliminated 2,300 regulations, streamlined the permitting process, attracted businesses, people are moving here, home prices are up, home sales are up and (there's) a five-year high in consumer confidence. But we have to keep working at it. I want every Floridian who wants a job to have one."
THE GOVERNOR ANSWERS YOUR TWEETS
franklin lasprilla @mafiavieja Where does he stand on the presidents ban on guns ???
“I’m a supporter of the Second Amendment, so I believe in the Second Amendment, and it’s as simple as that.”
Rusty @DragonFlyGardn Affordable property insurance and reduce the cost of Citizens policies…
“I’ve tried to bring in other insurance companies because typically when you have more competition you can control the price, and hopefully they’ll come down. We need to make sure that Citizens is financed in a way that if there is a Hurricane, they can pay.”
Steve Augello @allies_dad Please ask him about the texting and driving Bill and will it pass (will he sign it)
“I’m not sure what the legislature is going to do. But I’m a father, and I know the risk of texting. I now have one grandson, and will have two more this year, so it’s clearly an issue, [and] I’m hopeful the legislature will do the right thing.”
(Augello lost his daughter in a car accident he believes was caused by the other driver texting. You can hear more of his story and find out more about the proposed ban here.)
Why did he not decide to set education funding as a major part of his agenda earlier in his term?
“I walked in with a $3.7 billion budget deficit. You have to balance a budget. I’ve done that.
Alchemist Brew @Alchemistbrew What actions are being taken to ensure voting is accessible and efficient for all Floridians?
“I asked our Secretary of State to sit down with every Supervisor of Elections. We came back and said: these are things we need to work on. I want to increase the number of days [for early voting], I want to allow the supervisors the flexibility to have voting the Sunday before the Tuesday election, and I know the House and Senate are both working on that.”
You can follow the Governor on Twitter @FLGovScott, us at @WLRN, and me @PhilLatzman.
You can hear the entire interview by clicking the link at the top of this story.