Rick Scott delivered his eighth and final State of the State Address as Florida’s 45th Governor on Tuesday, during kickoff of the 2018 legislative session.
In a nutshell, the Governor’s wish list includes not only more tax cuts, but to make it more difficult for future governors and legislators to raise them. For that, he needs some help outside the Statehouse.
“I want 2018 to be the year that Florida voters pass a constitutional amendment that makes it harder for politicians to raise taxes,” said Scott. “My proposal would require two-thirds of the Legislature to vote on a tax increase for it to become law.”
Scott also is asking lawmakers for tax cuts which he contends will benefit all 21 million Floridians. The package includes reductions in driver license fees, rolling them back to pre-2009 levels.
“By cutting the fee for renewal of a regular drivers’ license from $48 to $20,” the Governor said. “I want to the fee on an original regular drivers’ license from $48 to $27. And I want to cut the original fee on regular commercial drivers’ license by more than ten percent.”
Scott also reflected on the state's recovery after Hurricane Irma and dealing with Hurricane Nate. To that end, he’s calling for an expansion of the sale tax holiday for hurricane supplies.
Florida’s opioid crisis was also listed in the State of the State. More than 57 hundred opioid-related deaths were reported across Florida in 2016, according to the state Health Department – a 35% increase over the previous year. Scott is proposing $53 million to fight opioid abuse.
“I’ve also proposed legislation to prevent drug addiction on the front end; reduce the ability for dangerous drugs to spread in Florida’s communities,” Scott said. “Give vulnerable Floridians the support they need; and insure [that] law enforcement officers have what they need to protect those impacted by opioids.”
Providing the Democratic response from the House was Minority Leader Janet Cruz of Miami. She welcomes Gov. Scott’s concerns about opioids, but…
“It has to be noted that governors and the Republican leaderships’ refusal to expand Medicaid, over 700,000 Floridians – including more than 40,000 veterans – has severely limited our fight against the opioid epidemic.”
Cruz says when people don’t have access to quality, affordable health care, they lack the resources to combat drug addiction and get treatment for mental illness – both main drivers, she contends, of Florida’s opioid problem.
Miami State Sen. Oscar Braynon provided the Democratic response from the Senate, saying there’s a sense of déjà vu.
“[Scott’s] campaign and promises were pretty much the same things we recently heard again when Donald Trump was sworn into office, promising to ‘drain the swamp,’” said Braynon. “We know what happened under Rick Scott, and we’re already getting a taste of what it’s like under Donald Trump. Because they’re pretty much one in the same.”
Since Scott arrived in Tallahassee in 2011, Braynon contends, state services to Floridians have sunk exponentially.
“In the past 20 years of Republican control, Floridians have been getting less and less in return for their money,” Braynon said. “Even though Gov. Scott’s proposed budget for the coming year ($87.4 billion) has hit an all-time high. Rick Scott will not only leave a checkered legacy, but a major state budget deficit taxpayers will have to fill.”
The clock is running on the Legislature’s 60 work days at the statehouse. Barring any delays, sine die is March 9.