As Delivered March 7, 2017
Good afternoon. I’m Oscar Braynon, and I’m the leader of the Senate Democratic Caucus.
On behalf of the Senate Democratic members, I’d like to talk to you for a few minutes about Governor Scott’s State of the State address today.
Not just about what he said, but about what he didn’t, about the promises he’s broken, and why that matters.
For the past seven years, Governor Scott has talked a lot about the economy. “It’s all about jobs,” he says.
Well, he’s right. We couldn’t agree more. Everyone needs work; everyone needs a job.
The problem is the kind of jobs he’s been bringing home to Florida.
Because the majority of his jobs are great for teenagers, or someone just starting out, but not for someone with skills, with training, with a strong work history, or a family to support.
They’re not the kind of jobs that let you save for that new car, that down payment on a new house, or your kid’s future education.
They’re not the kind of jobs that invest in the people.
And it’s that commitment to investing in the people that’s been missing from too many areas in the seven years since Governor Scott first took office.
In states like Michigan, Arizona, and even Vice President Mike Pence’s home state of Indiana, the governors didn’t stand in the way of the people getting affordable health care.
They realized that bankrupting residents because of a medical emergency isn’t the way to prosperity.
They realized that the national health care law not only brought more medical coverage for people, but more good paying jobs in the health care field.
They knew that you can’t work if you’re sick, you can’t give 100 percent if your body is operating at half power, and you can’t take care of others if you can’t take care of yourself.
Time and time again, Governor Scott had the chance to do the right thing, to invest in the people by expanding healthcare coverage in Florida.
But he didn’t. He gave the public’s money away in big tax breaks to big companies instead.
It was a fool’s errand.
From conservative think tanks to top economists, there’s widespread agreement that the way to lure the top companies with the top paying jobs isn’t just dangling tax dollars in front of them.
Florida is and has been one of the lowest tax states for business in the country.
Business executives want what the rest of us do, and it all comes down to quality of life: good schools and top-notch universities, quality, affordable healthcare, efficient transportation, and clean water and air.
They want more than just a state that sells itself as “cheap.”
So as Governor Scott continues his sales pitch for more of your dollars for more of his corporate tax cuts, ask him about that big shortfall the state is facing because of these very same policies, and his broken promises to turn Florida around.
Ask him about the green sludge fouling Florida’s waters because money was never committed for prevention.
Ask him why we’re stuck near the bottom in high school graduation rates and educating our pre-school kids.
Ask him why 9,000 more people with developmental disabilities age 21 or older are waitlisted for services, or why we’re at the bottom of the national pack in our commitment to services for the mentally ill, or access to basic health care.
And ask him why investments in the people just aren’t as important as the people’s money for his tax incentives.
If you had the chance, what would you choose?
More jobs paying minimum wage, or jobs you could brag about, jobs you were proud of, jobs that were taking you somewhere?
If you had the chance, would you check the box for fewer doctors, less medical services, and higher costs?
Or would you check the box for a family doctor, preventative services, and treatment you can afford?
As Democrats, we believe in the right choices, the ones that deliver the good jobs we need, and the affordable healthcare we’re missing.
We believe in a future that aims higher, that wraps the hopes and dreams of every man and every woman struggling to hold on, into one unified march for better opportunities now – not some faraway date in the future.
And we believe that the way that you do this is by investing in the people.
Start with education, the great equalizer, and start young. Commit the money our public schools desperately need to shore up crumbling buildings, pay better salaries to our teachers entrusted with educating our children, and provide the tools students need to succeed and stand second to none.
Embrace health care coverage for all Floridians, and the financial sense it makes not just in eliminating expensive back-end treatments, but a boon in new high paying jobs.
And rethink opportunity and second chances by eliminating criminal records for minor drug and non-violent offenses so that job offers don’t vanish with the application form.
All of this was missing from Governor Scott’s State of the State speech today. It’s been missing for the past seven years.
For all his campaigning as an “outsider” his politics have been focused on the well-being of the insiders, his promised tax cuts mostly tailored for the well-off while the tax bills went to everyone else.
In his first campaign for president, former President Obama said: “Our government should work for us, not against us. It should help us, not hurt us. It should ensure opportunity not just for those with the most money and influence, but for every American who’s willing to work. That’s the promise of America.”
That’s the promise of Florida, too. And that’s the promise Democrats intend to keep.
As Delivered March 7, 2017