BY MICHAEL PELTIER
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA
TALLAHASSEE – Gov. Rick Scott said Tuesday his “7-7-7” plan is alive and well as he pointed to private job gains while vowing to continue separate quests to bolster education funding and cut corporate taxes.
Speaking to reporters following a meeting with the Cabinet, Scott dismissed reports that unemployed Floridians are exhausting benefits without finding work and that much of the drop in unemployment is due to a shrinking workforce.
The governor instead said he’s focused on the creation of 130,000 private sector jobs since he took office, a figure that puts him on the mark to reach his goal of 700,000 jobs in seven years, the litmus test for his campaign mantra.
“Absolutely, no question,” Scott said when asked if he would reach that goal.
Focus on education
Fresh off a statewide school tour, Scott said he will again focus on education, a year after he successfully pushed for a $1 billion increase in state funding, which came on the heels of deep budget cuts in previous years.
“The goal would be, if we can control the growth of Medicaid and the economy continues to grow, we’ll be put more money into K-12,” Scott said.
A strengthening economy would also allow him to fulfill another campaign promise to repeal the state’s corporate income tax, which the governor said remains an impediment to attracting jobs to Florida.
“If you didn’t have an income tax…. you could buy more equipment, hire more people. That would be a big draw,” Scott said. “If we can do that that would be great, but it is going to be tied to how fast our economy grows.”
Scott was dismissive of questions about whether at least some of the drop in the unemployment rate was due to people dropping out of the workforce.
An Office of Economic and Demographic Research report recently said a shrinking labor force and long-term unemployed residents no longer seeking work had played a significant role in lowering the state’s jobless rate. When asked to address that, the governor bristled.
“Look at the chart. Look at the Department of Revenue numbers,” Scott said. “That is 130,000 jobs. That is 130,000 families that now have work that didn’t have it before – 130,000 jobs.”