(Remarks to Associated Press – as prepared for delivery)
There are three things I want to talk about today: FIRST – The state of our economy in Florida – where we have come from and where we are going. SECOND – I will talk about why continuing to cut taxes and eliminate regulations on businesses, especially our manufacturers, is critical to keeping our state’s economy moving forward. THIRD – I will talk about our MAJOR investment in education and why I call this an “INVESTMENT” for Florida families.
ECONOMY OFF TRACK
FIRST – I want to back up and talk about the economic situation our state is in today.
Many of you have heard these numbers before…I came into office in 2011 during record-high unemployment, record-high debt, and record-high job losses. In the four years before I took office, Florida lost 825,500 jobs. Unemployment more than tripled – from 3.5% to 11.1% over those four years. State debt increased over those four years by $5.2 billion. Our housing market was crippled.
There has been no lack of debate or finger pointing, by political pundits and journalists alike, about HOW our economy ended up so far off track. But, there is NO disagreement that our economy WAS IN FACT in bad shape…and Florida families were hurting.
The policies of BORROWING and SPENDING…and borrowing and spending some more…were not working in Florida.
It was time for a change.
I ran for Governor, committed to getting our economy back ON TRACK by reining in spending, paying down debt, and removing the burdens on job creators that support Florida families.
ECONOMY ON TRACK
Today, I am happy to report that since I took office two years ago, our unemployment rate has dropped by more than 3 percentage points. We are now at 8 percent unemployment – a record 4-year low. We have also cut state debt by $2 billion. Our housing starts are up again and consumer confidence is rebounding.
We cut taxes and regulations on job creators and jump-started economic growth that has now generated around 200,000 new private sector jobs. This means around 200,000 new opportunities for Florida families to pursue their version of the American dream.
I set an ambitious goal during the campaign, saying I wanted to create an environment that would foster the creation of 700,000 jobs in 7 years. Some have debated what jobs count toward this total.
Maybe it is because I am not “a career politician,” but I think this is a GREAT DEBATE TO HAVE. Every time we discuss which new jobs – and what kind of jobs – should count toward our job-creation goal, we are celebrating the job creation that is fueling our economic recovery. I love discussing HOW to count all the jobs that are being created – especially after losing more than 800,000 jobs during the four years before I took office…
Just as there is no doubt that our economy was OFF-TRACK when I took office, there is NO DOUBT that Florida’s economy is ON-TRACK today. In fact, a legislative committee now estimates that our state will create around 900,000 new jobs by 2018. Florida’s economic recovery is well underway. Going through a crisis requires tough choices. Years of borrowing and spending delayed the tough cost-savings measures that needed to take place for our state to live within its means. When the federal stimulus funds finally went away, we were forced to reduce spending. If we were going to grow again, we had to do more with less.
These choices were not easy. One of the hardest decisions was signing the budget in 2011 after stimulus funding for education ran out, and left a big hole.
Today, in 2013, our economy is on track. Because we chose to shrink government and live within our means, we are now in a position to STRATEGICALLY INVEST in statewide priorities.
I cannot overstate the fact that without the hard choices we made a few years ago, we could not afford to STRATEGICALLY INVEST in our budget this year.
I told you that the SECOND main thing I would talk about today is our work to GROW JOBS and create opportunities for Florida families.
Every day, I think about how we can help Florida families that are making $50,000 a year or less. That was my family growing up – and that is about half of the families in our state today. If we are serious about Florida families having more opportunities to pursue their dreams, we have to be serious about job creation. In order to encourage the creation of even MORE jobs in Florida, the budget I announce tomorrow will support funding to exempt 2,000 more small businesses from having to pay the business tax. This means 2,000 more businesses will have more money in their pockets, which they can use to reward their hard-working employees who are also trying to recover from the national recession.
More importantly, in the budget I announce tomorrow, we will ELIMINATE the sales tax on manufacturing equipment – to level the playing field between Florida and the other states we compete with for job creation.
Currently, there are 17,500 manufacturing companies in Florida that employ more than 300,000 Florida families. As of 2010, manufacturing made up just 4.3 percent of employment in Florida – which is well below the national average of manufacturing jobs across the country. We need to build up our manufacturing jobs in Florida.
Most of our manufactures have locations, or even headquarters, in other states around the country, and the world. When they need to purchase equipment, they are making an EXPENSIVE purchase of MANUFACTURING equipment that their business will use for YEARS TO COME. They usually consider their many different locations before making a manufacturing equipment purchase.
We WANT this kind of investment by manufacturers in FLORIDA because it means businesses are putting their roots down even deeper in our communities – and that means our families will have more stable job opportunities for years to come.
Our current tax policy puts the state at a competitive disadvantage because most states do not force manufacturers to pay taxes on the purchase of equipment or require them to adhere to regulations for tax exemptions.
Because of the hard work we have done to identify cost-savings and efficiencies across state government, I am proposing a budget tomorrow that will eliminate the sales tax on manufacturing equipment and save Florida manufactures an estimated $141 million. Our budget specifically dedicates $115 million in general revenue to eliminating this tax on manufactures.
Knocking down this barrier to job creation will create more job opportunities for Florida families who are looking for STABLE jobs they can depend on, especially as many are still on the road to economic recovery – just as we are at the state level.
Let there be no doubt about it – eliminating the sales tax on manufacturing equipment IS ONE OF MY ABSOLUTE TOP PRIORITIES IN THIS BUDGET and in the UPCOMING LEGISLATIVE SESSION.
Third, and finally, my other TOP PRIORITY in the upcoming budget and legislative session is FUNDING FOR EDUCATION.
As I said before, we had some hard choices to make in order to get our state back on track when I came into office. NOW, we are in a position to STRATEGICALLY INVEST in statewide priorities that will encourage job creation and economic growth for generations to come.
In government, there will always be more worthy causes than money to fund them.
Budgeting is an exercise of prioritizing.
In the upcoming budget, my priorities are JOBS AND EDUCATION.
The budget I announce tomorrow will include an increase of $1.2 billion in funding for K-12 public schools.
That’s right – a $1.2 billion increase in funding for K-12 public schools.
This total includes $10.7 billion in STATE FUNDING for Florida K-12 schools – the highest state funding level in HISTORY.
This funding commitment represents per student funding of around $6,800 – an increase of more than $400 per student, or around 6.5 percent, over the current fiscal year.
Our total budget for education also includes our $480 million commitment to give each and every classroom teacher a $2,500 pay raise, along with the cost of related benefits.
Investing in our TEACHERS and in our EDUCATION system is the KEY to our state’s continued economic growth.
We made the hard choices to recover and get back on track – now we must make the SMART choices to invest in Florida’s future.
In this budget, I am DOUBLING DOWN ON OUR INVESTMENT in K-12 education. This BILLION DOLLAR investment more than DOUBLES our BILLION DOLLAR investment from last year.
We are in a position to invest, and I can think of no better place to make such a major investment than in our Florida teachers and the FUTURE WORKFORCE they educate every day.
Some have argued that you can’t make this kind of investment in Florida teachers without losing teacher accountability and backing away from performance pay. I disagree. I support accountability and rewarding high-performing teachers; and I know our teachers do as well.
Our students and teachers were recently ranked 6th for educational quality. On a recent international reading survey, our fourth graders scored among the best in the world. And, the National Council on Teacher Quality ranked Florida teachers number one in the country on their 2012 survey.
Some say they are afraid that giving raises to all teachers may mean that a teacher doing a bad job gets rewarded. I have two things to say about this: FIRST – I have never met an educator who wants bad teachers to be rewarded. The educators and parents I talk to support accountability. They want to reward good teachers and move bad teachers out of the classroom. I agree with them. SECOND – Of all the things government funds, I am CERTAIN of the VALUE our teachers add to our state. Teachers change lives. They shape young minds and cultivate our future workforce.
I believe that we have to INVEST in the targeted areas where we want to encourage growth and IMPROVEMENT. Our teachers are training Florida’s future. The workers businesses will hire a decade from now are in K-12 classrooms today.
The two priorities of JOBS AND EDUCATION are directly connected. We want our kids to get a great education so they can get a great job. This is how we support the FUTURE of FLORIDA FAMILIES that were just like mine growing up – - we must DOUBLE DOWN on our investment in education to help our children compete and succeed in the global economy.
In conclusion, I want to stress again that eliminating the sales tax on manufacturing equipment, and our historic education investment, which is heavily tied to a $2,500 teacher pay raise, are my TOP TWO PRIORITIES this year.
I have great partners in Speaker Weatherford and President Gaetz who share the goal of moving our state forward and keeping our economy growing.
I’m sure that under their leadership, the legislature will take up many other worthy causes, and there will no doubt be some great debates; but, I am asking for the help of EVERY HOUSE AND EVERY SENATE MEMBER who will join with me in making these two STRATEGIC INVESTMENTS for the future of Florida families a reality this year.
Together, I know we can put Florida families first and put our state on track to increased economic growth and job creation.