FDLE Commissioner Rick Swearingen responds to Governor DeSantis’ State of the State address. [Read more…] about FDLE Commissioner Swearingen applauds State of the State address
State of the State address
Governor Ron DeSantis today delivered his first State of the State address to a joint session of Florida’s legislature, outlining his vision and priorities for the future of Florida. [Read more…] about Governor Ron DeSantis Calls for Bold Action, Delivers Aspirational Message During State of the State Address
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Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Ken Lawson today issued the following response to Governor Ron DeSantis’ State of the State address: [Read more…] about Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Ken Lawson’s Response to Governor DeSantis’ State of the State Address
Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee issued the following statement on Governor DeSantis’ State of the State address: [Read more…] about Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee Issues Statement on Governor DeSantis’ State of the State Address
Highlights Department Efforts to Pursue Governor’s Vision of Reasonable
Deregulation That Broadens Access to Professional Careers for Floridians
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Governor Ron DeSantis will deliver the State of the State Address in the Chamber of the Florida House of Representatives on Tuesday, March 5th, 2019. [Read more…] about Governor Ron DeSantis to Deliver State of the State Address
Governor Rick Scott today highlighted the following Floridians in his annual State of the State address.
Lauren and Michael Davis, Jacksonville
Lauren and Michael both serve in the Florida National Guard, and were deployed along with thousands of our brave National Guard members during Hurricane Irma. However, their wedding in Jacksonville Beach was planned for the same week. Lauren and Michael exchanged vows in full uniform in front of their fellow guardsmen at the Orange County Convention Center as they prepared for post-storm response.
Governor Rick Scott with Lauren and Michael Davis
Sarah Sheppard, Daytona Beach
Sarah is a Parent Partner at Healthy Start, a non-profit organization in Daytona Beach and state partner in the fight against the opioid epidemic. After overcoming her own addiction seven years ago, Sarah now helps parents during the recovery process so that they can be reunited with their children.
Erica Ford, Tallahassee
Erica is a Child Protective Investigator with the Department of Children and Families and foster parent. In 2015, she began fostering a baby boy named Adam, and in 2016, began fostering his newborn brother Avery before ultimately deciding to officially adopt the two young brothers as a proud single mother. Erica’s children are two of the 20,000 children in foster care have been adopted since 2011.
Paul Huszar, Tampa
Paul is a small business owner at VetCor, a restoration company in Tampa that has created more than 20 new jobs in just five years. As a veteran with more than 20 years of military service, Paul has received both the Governor’s Business Ambassador Award and the Governor’s Veterans Service Award for his service to Florida families. Since 2013, Governor Scott has awarded nearly 13,000 Florida veterans with the Governor’s Veterans Service Award.
Governor Rick Scott and Paul Huszar
Sebastian Ghiragossian and Mariana Cortez, Miami
In 2011, Sebastian escaped the crisis in Venezuela by moving to Miami, where he met his wife Mariana. Together, they opened Bunnie Cakes, a vegan bakery that employs more than 20 Floridians. Bunnie Cakes has been recognized by the Governor with a Business Ambassador Award for their efforts creating new opportunities in South Florida. Sebastian is one of the many people who have had to flee their home in Venezuela for freedom and opportunity, and Governor Scott has committed to continuing to stand with the people of Venezuela against the Maduro dictatorship.
Governor Rick Scott with Mariana Cortez and Sebastian Ghiragossian
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Good morning. I am honored to deliver my final state of the state today. I would first like to recognize: Speaker of the House Richard Corcoran. Speaker, I appreciate your commitment to cutting taxes and for fighting to make sure every Florida student can get a great education. Senate President Joe Negron. President, your focus on Lake Okeechobee and Florida’s environment will benefit countless Floridians and visitors for generations.
Lieutenant Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera. Thank you for all you do for our great state and for joining me in the fight for freedom and democracy in Cuba and Venezuela. Attorney General Pam Bondi. You have been a true advocate for crime victims and have been a leading voice in our fight against the opioid epidemic. There’s no doubt that your efforts have saved lives. Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis. I was proud to appoint you as CFO and in a very short time, you have done so much to help Florida families. Thank you for all you are doing to support our brave firefighters. Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam. Thank you for always fighting for Florida’s critical agriculture community and for all you have done to help Florida’s citrus industry after Hurricane Irma. Chief Justice Labarga and members of the Florida Supreme Court. Thank you for your service to our state.
I would like to thank my wife, Ann. There isn’t a day that goes by that I am not thankful for your unwavering support. As first lady, you have done so much to help Florida families. From visiting schools, to promoting literacy and helping find forever homes for kids in foster care, I am so proud of all you have done. You took a chance on me 45 years ago, a skinny kid without a penny in his pocket, who talked too fast, with only a dream. You have believed in me every day since then, including the day I told you I wanted to run for Governor. When no one else thought I had a shot, you stood by me. I love you. I would like to also recognize my son-law-law Pierre and my oldest grandson, Auguste. Auguste wants to either be a paratrooper like his great-grandfather or a police officer when he grows up.
I know how disappointed you all must be that you won’t get to hear me give another great speech like this, try to hold back the tears. Putting jokes aside, I stand here today, at the beginning of my last year as Governor, thankful for the opportunity that we have all had to help our beloved state of Florida. I am thankful that in 2010, with the amazing support of my family, the people of Florida gave me the chance to turn our state around. This has been the most rewarding job.
There were the naysayers who told us there was no way that a businessman with no experience in politics or government could possibly be successful at helping to turn Florida’s economy around. Fortunately for all of us, the naysayers were wrong.
When I was in business, I would see politicians come and go and always make promises that they would be business-friendly, cut taxes and reduce regulations. And usually, it was all just talk. Nothing much ever happened. I have done business in almost every state, and when I brought an issue about permits or licensing to government leaders, they would often just repeat their same promises and reassure me that they would get back with me. Of course, they rarely ever did.
In 2010, when I ran for Governor, I promised to change the status quo and create an environment where businesses can succeed and create jobs for Florida families. And the results speak for themselves: Working together, we’ve created an environment where our private sector has added nearly 1.5 million jobs; our GDP has grown 26 percent; home values have skyrocketed; we’ve decreased state debt by $9 billion; and our unemployment rate has dropped from over 10 percent when I took office to a more than 10-year low of 3.6 percent – even lower than the national rate.
Those are some great statistics, but this is not about statistics. It’s about real people. Like many people, I grew up in poverty and I can tell you firsthand having a job is not something we should ever take for granted. Florida has experienced this incredible economic revival because we have worked hard to cut taxes over 80 times, which has saved Florida families more than $7.5 billion. Working together, we have taken billions of dollars out of the government’s hands and given it back to Floridians.
Like many of you here, this is my last year in this position. This is my last session to cut taxes. And, we must acknowledge that, unfortunately, at some point, there will be politicians sitting in this chamber who are not as fiscally responsible as we are today.
I am sure there will be people who hold our jobs down the road who will want to increase taxes, otherwise known as taking more money from hard working Floridians. Decades ago, Florida voters approved an amendment to the constitution that prohibited a state income tax. The skeptics warned that bad things would happen – the skeptics were wrong.
I want 2018 to be the year that Florida voters pass a constitutional amendment that makes it harder for politicians to raise taxes. My proposal would require 2/3rds of the legislature to vote on a tax increase for it to become law. Some have asked if this proposal would be in effect during a financial emergency or another national recession, and my answer is clear – ABSOLUTELY.
It is during times of economic downturn where this proposal is needed the most. It will force leaders to contemplate living within their means rather than taking the easy way out and just sticking it to the public by raising taxes on families and job creators.
I ask all of you to join me in this fight and ensure we do all we can to not let future politicians undo the hard work we have done to grow Florida’s economy and create jobs. We need to secure a strong economy for our children and grandchildren.
I also have put forward a tax cut package this year that will truly benefit every single Floridian. Before I took office, everyone who had a driver’s license faced a massive fee increase. This year, I want to reduce those fees back to pre-2009 levels by cutting the fee for the renewal of a regular driver’s license by more than 58 percent from $48 to $20; I want to cut the fee on an original regular driver’s license by more than 43 percent from $48 to $27; and I want to cut the fee on an original Commercial Driver’s License by more than 10 percent. My dad was a truck driver and if he had extra money back in his pocket, that would have been a big deal.
My tax cut proposal also includes sales tax holidays to help families prepare for the school year and hurricane season. After the storms we experienced last year, we need to have a longer sales tax holiday so people have time to buy the supplies they need like generators, batteries and flashlights. My proposal extends the current one-week sales tax holiday to three weeks over a three-month period to ensure people have ample time to get the goods they need before the start of hurricane season.
I don’t think anyone in this room could have predicted the mammoth storm Hurricane Irma would become. There wasn’t a portion of our state that was safe from Irma. We saw it shift, turn, and literally cover our entire state. It was like a scene from a movie.
But, Floridians came together and faced Hurricane Irma head on. As I traveled around the state, I heard story after story of families helping one another and communities standing together. The response and solidarity that was shown by our state was one of the proudest moments that I have had as Governor. And when I was urging people to get prepared for the storm and to evacuate, so many of you were there to help raise awareness in your communities. Thank you.
And after the storm, we showed up. From handing out water, to working at food banks, so many Floridians and many of you in this room helped your neighbors in need. And I believe Florida has come back even stronger.
Florida demonstrated to the entire world how to prepare and respond to a natural disaster, and two heroes who helped Florida prepare and respond to Hurricane Irma are with us today. I would like to introduce you to Lauren and Michael Davis from Jacksonville. Lauren and Michael both serve in the Florida National Guard, and were deployed along with thousands of our brave National Guard members during the storm. However, their deployment was at a very inconvenient time for the young couple. Their wedding was set in Jacksonville Beach the same week as the Hurricane was impacting Florida.
So, instead of postponing getting married, Lauren and Michael decided to exchange vows in full uniform in front of their fellow guardsmen at the Orange County Convention Center as they prepared for post-storm response. Lauren and Michael chose to put “service before self,” a trait we should all strive to have. Lauren and Michael, thank you for your sacrifice to protect your fellow Floridians. And please be sure to give all these legislators the details on your wedding registry.
Just when we thought we got through Irma, Maria was quickly approaching Puerto Rico. While we are so blessed Florida was spared, sadly our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico were devastated. Like many of you in this room, I have been focused on helping Puerto Rico recover and rebuild. I have visited Puerto Rico twice following the storm. I saw firsthand the devastation on the Island and I have tried to help the people of Puerto Rico any way I could. We have had hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans come to Florida since Maria and my goal is that Florida be the most welcoming place for people displaced by the storm. We have set up centers to help Puerto Ricans get connected to services and resources, made it easier for students to get enrolled in our schools and removed barriers for professional licenses so people can quickly get to work in our state.
But, there is still more we can do together to help Puerto Ricans displaced by the storm. This year, I am proposing $12 million in funding to establish the English Language Learners Academy. This program will focus on reading improvements and making sure students displaced by Hurricane Maria have access to important learning programs. And, I ask that you join me in supporting this important program this year.
As we saw throughout this entire hurricane season, our first responders came to the rescue of so many. Not only did our first responders and National Guard do an outstanding job during Hurricanes Irma and Nate here in Florida, but they came to the rescue of our friends outside of Florida. Following Maria, 50 Florida Highway Patrol members deployed to Puerto Rico to help with security and traffic control in San Juan. And following Hurricane Harvey in Texas, more than two dozen Florida Fish and Wildlife officers helped rescue more than 500 people trapped in flooded areas. While they are not here with us today, please join me in a round of applause to thank these brave men and women.
Our law enforcement have done an incredible job protecting Florida families
and I hope each of you will support my proposed pay raise of $30 million for all state sworn officers this year. I am also proud to support a measure that is going through the Constitutional Revision Commission to give free tuition to the families of fallen first responders, state law enforcement officers and military members who have lost their lives in the line of duty.
Since I have taken office, 41 officers have tragically been killed in the line of duty. These brave men and women died as heroes and it is important that the state does everything possible to take care of the families who lost a loved one who was working to protect our communities. When you think about it, it’s the least we can do.
The last thing our military men and women and first responders need to be thinking about when they go to work every day is “will my family be taken care of if I am gone?”
Two of those heroes that died in the line of duty last year are Sergeant Sam Howard and Officer Matthew Baxter. They were senselessly shot while on patrol in Kissimmee. Sergeant Howard’s wife and daughter, Billie Jo and Unique, are here today. Officer Baxter’s wife, Sadia, is also here and was recently sworn in as a special agent for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Billie Jo, Unique and Sadia, we will continue to do all we can to honor Sam and Matthew.
Another incredible hero who was tragically killed in the line of duty is Lieutenant Deborah Clayton. She was executed in cold blood and I have fought hard to ensure that her accused killer is prosecuted to the absolute fullest extent of the law. I will stop at nothing to fully support the families of fallen police officers like Deborah Clayton. That is why I removed cases from a prosecutor last year who refused to seek justice for fallen law enforcement officers.
I want to be very clear – in Florida we have zero tolerance for anyone who attacks our law enforcement officers and I will fight to make sure justice is swift and these killers are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
That doesn’t stop with law enforcement. We have to take care of all crime victims in our state. No one in Florida who has been a victim of crime should feel ashamed. Victims of crime or harassment deserve to have their voices heard. Last year, I was stunned to learn that state employees who reported incidents of sexual harassment did not have their identities protected in many circumstances. If you were a state employee who was the victim of sexual harassment and you filed a complaint with your agency, your name and other identifying information was not always confidential. I have daughters and learning that there was not a public records exemption for this really bothered me, so I vowed to change the law. With the help of all of you in this room, we passed a law to protect state employees who were victims of sexual harassment. Working together, we took a step forward to protect those in state government who were victimized. But, it is clear that more must be done.
Last month, I signed an executive order that outlines the process for sexual harassment training, reporting, investigating, and recovery for victims at all of my agencies. I urge both chambers, and all of the cabinet agencies, to follow our lead and do the same. I also want to take a step further and encourage the Legislature to pass a bill that protects state employees who witness their colleagues being harassed or victimized. I want to ensure the identities of these brave individuals are protected so they feel encouraged to participate in investigations.
Unfortunately, we have seen this play out all over the country, including Tallahassee. Things have got to change, and it starts right here in this building. The people of Florida deserve better than what they are reading about in the news. We all must join together and send a very strong message: Florida stands with victims.
I now want to turn to another serious topic that I believe by working together, we must combat in our state. Like so many families, I have had to watch a loved one struggle with drug abuse. It is hard and so painful. When I first took office, I worked with General Bondi and many of you in this chamber to crack down on pill mills. We fought hard to get pills off our streets, but as we have seen with the national opioid epidemic, our fight against drugs is not over.
I would like to introduce you to Sarah Sheppard. Sarah is a Parent Partner at Healthy Start, a non-profit organization in Daytona Beach that is one of our many state partners in the fight against the opioid epidemic. After overcoming her own addiction seven years ago, Sarah now dedicates her time to helping parents during the challenging recovery process so that they can be reunited with their children. Overcoming addiction requires incredible strength and bravery and we must make sure that resources are available to help people get the treatment they need.
This year, I have proposed to invest $53 million to fight opioid abuse in Florida. I have also proposed legislation to prevent drug addiction on the front end, reduce the ability for dangerous drugs to spread in Florida’s communities, give vulnerable Floridians the support they need, and ensure law enforcement officers have resources to protect those impacted by opioids. I ask that all of you support these measures this session so we can help Sarah in this important work she and so many others do in our state each day. Thank you, Sarah.
I know I talk about jobs numbers a lot, to the point where the reporters all roll their eyes, but there are some other statistics that are pretty impressive and show great strides in our state.
Since 2011, 20,000 children in foster care have been adopted. Think about that, 20,000 more kids are in a home with a loving family in just the last seven years. One of those thousands of families is with us today.
I would like to recognize recent new mom, Erica Ford, from Tallahassee. Erica is a Child Protective Investigator with the Department of Children and Families, who has also worked to help children in need by serving as a foster parent. In 2015, Erica was asked to foster a baby boy named Adam. She quickly fell in love with him and when his younger brother, Avery, was born the next year, she also began caring for him. Erica wanted to do all she could to give them both a better life, and she made the decision to permanently open her heart and home to these children by officially adopting the two young brothers as a proud single mother. Erica, thank you for changing the lives of these precious children. Your profound actions will no doubt inspire more Floridians to adopt.
I am also proud that since 2013, I have awarded nearly 13,000 Florida veterans with the Governor’s Veterans Service Award. And one of these recipients is here today. Let’s welcome Paul Huszar. Paul is the owner of VetCor, a restoration company in Tampa. He is also a veteran and served more than 20 years in the military. As a small business owner, Paul has seen the result of our efforts to cut taxes first hand.
He has been able to invest in his company and create more than 20 new jobs in just five years. Paul’s business is also one of the many job creators that have worked to hire Florida veterans through the Veterans Florida Employment and Training Services program. I am proud that we’ve worked together to make it easier for businesses like Paul’s to create jobs so more Florida veterans can support their families. Thank you, Paul.
Before I close, we must also recognize the larger role Florida plays globally. Over the past few years, we’ve seen the conditions deteriorate drastically in Venezuela. As I have travelled the state, I have heard from Floridians who are worried about the situation the Maduro Regime has created in Venezuela. Make no mistake – Maduro and his gang of thugs pose a problem for the entire world. Especially for us here in Florida. Florida is home to a vibrant Venezuelan population and many of our friends and neighbors still have family there.
There is no free speech, people like Leopoldo Lopez are imprisoned or put under house arrest for fighting for democracy and there is limited access to food and medicine. The people of Venezuela deserve better. They deserve freedom and democracy. To do our part, I proposed to ban state investments going to benefit the Maduro Regime. And, last year, the entire Florida Cabinet supported this effort. Thank you. Now, I am fighting for legislation that takes this important step further by blocking state agencies from doing the same. I ask all of you to join us in this fight and pass this important legislation.
I would like to introduce you to Sebastian Ghiragossian and Mariana Cortez from Miami who desperately want to see change in Venezuela. In 2011, Sebastian escaped the crisis in Venezuela by moving to Miami, where he met his wife Mariana. Together, they opened Bunnie Cakes, a vegan bakery that employs more than 20 Floridians. Sebastian is one of the many people who had to flee their home in Venezuela for freedom and opportunity. While we are proud to have him here in Florida, we must continue to stand with the people of Venezuela against the Maduro dictatorship. Sebastian and Mariana, I am going to fight to make sure Florida does everything possible to bring freedom and democracy to Venezuela.
I have spent every day since taking office fighting to grow our economy and ensure we have the most prosperous state for generations to come. I am proud of the work we have accomplished together to secure Florida’s future by creating an environment where Floridians of all ages have the tools they need to succeed in our state. But, our work is not done.
We must secure our future by investing record funding in our environment, our education system and our transportation infrastructure. We must secure our future by helping those with disabilities have access to great jobs. We must secure our future by ensuring we remain the most military and veteran-friendly state in the nation. And, we must secure our future by making sure Florida remains the global destination for jobs.
We have a finite amount of time left in these positions. Let’s all fight together until our last minute in office to secure Florida’s future for every family. Thank you, God bless you and God bless the great State of Florida.
Remarks as Prepared for Delivery
Good morning President Negron, Speaker Corcoran, and members of the Florida Legislature. Welcome Lt. Governor Carlos Lopez-Cantera. I would also like to welcome: Attorney General Pam Bondi, Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater – thank you for your many years of service to the state. CFO, I have really enjoyed working with you and getting to know you and your family. Chief Justice Labarga and members of the Florida Supreme Court. In December, I had the great honor to appoint the newest member of the Supreme Court, Justice Alan Lawson.
I would like to recognize my amazing wife, Ann. I am so proud of the mother and grandmother she is and I love watching how passionate she is about visiting Florida schools and reading to students. I love you, Ann!
Over the coming weeks, we will have many debates over bills and policies, but what unites us will always be stronger than what divides us – and what unites us is the resiliency of our great state. After every challenge, every heartbreak and every tragedy, Florida comes back stronger and better any time we are knocked down.
Since I last stood here to address you, Florida has endured many heartbreaks. I have prayed for families around our state who have been impacted by tragedy, and my own heart has been broken for their losses. Our state has been rocked by the gruesome terrorist attack at the Pulse Nightclub, in Orlando. We endured two hurricanes, fought against the rapid spread of the Zika Virus, and were devastated by the deadly Ft. Lauderdale Airport shooting.
While heartbreaking, these tragedies have given me a new perspective. I am now more convinced than ever that the future of our state is even greater than our past accomplishments and that we must be even more resolved to build a society where any child, no matter where they are from, has the opportunity to live their dreams.
And, if there is one thing you remember from this speech today, I hope it is this: Florida is a state full of fighters, and I will never stop fighting for our families. Floridians are strong. Floridians are selfless. Floridians are fighters.
I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many great Floridians during my time as Governor. But, I’ve been forever changed by all of the incredible people I have met this past year during some of our state’s most challenging times. Nothing could have prepared me for the horror we saw on June 12, 2016 when a terrorist inspired by ISIS stormed into Pulse and senselessly killed 49 innocent people. This was a terrorist attack and 49 brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, friends and spouses were murdered.
The days I spent in Orlando following the shooting will always be with me. I talked to many parents who lost their children. I remember sitting with one mom who recounted her son’s final 48 hours on earth and how he died a hero because he was trying to save a friend’s life. I met with an injured victim whose TV was turned off in his hospital room. His family needed to wait to tell him that his partner had been killed and did not want him to find out from the news and I went to wakes and funerals to mourn with families as they said their final good-byes. The hardest thing I have ever had to do as Governor is try to find the words to console a parent who lost their child, and I truly cannot imagine the grief of losing a child.
Amid the horror and terror of that night, we also saw what bravery and heroism looks like. We saw so many first responders rush to the scene. First responders like SWAT team member Officer Michael Napolitano with the Orlando Police Department. Officer Napolitano, please stand.
Without fear or hesitation, Officer Napolitano and his fellow SWAT members confronted the terrorist and during the stand-off, his Kevlar helmet stopped a bullet which saved his life. Officer Napolitano, we are proud to call you a Floridian. Thank you for your courage to serve in the face of evil, and thank you for fighting for Florida families.
I would like to also welcome Orlando Police Chief John Mina and Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings. Both helped respond to the terrorist attack at Pulse. Chief Mina and Sheriff Demings, you and your team of brave law enforcement officers have kept families safe and secure. On behalf of all Florida families, please tell your officers and deputies that we are proud of them and job well done!
In order to keep fighting to support public safety in our state, we have to ensure Florida’s law enforcement officers have the resources they need to curb senseless violence and crime. That is why I have recommended nearly $6 million for counterterrorism efforts this year. I wake up every day fighting for Florida because I want to make it a better place for my grandchildren. In fact, Ann and I just found out that our daughter Allison and her husband Pierre will be welcoming twins later this year! This will make Ann and me proud grandparents to six wonderful grandchildren! When I started this job, Ann and I didn’t have any grandkids. Now, we will have six. Certainly, my daughters were listening when I said, “Let’s get to work!”
We have worked so hard to grow jobs and together, we have been able to implement policies that have turned our economy around for our future generations. But, we cannot stop now! Florida’s businesses have created over 1.26 million private-sector jobs since I was elected, including more than 237,000 new jobs last year alone. And, our job growth rate is growing more than twice as fast as the national rate.
Our economy is booming and I am glad that America elected my friend, Donald Trump, a businessman, outsider like myself, as President who is focused on growing the national economy. Florida is on the verge of becoming the job creation capital of the world! And, the fight for jobs continues, and that means we have to keep cutting taxes! Together, we have cut taxes 55 times, saving families $6.5 billion dollars… but we must do more! This year, I am fighting to cut taxes by $618 million to cut costs for small businesses, students, veterans, teachers and families.
Our “Fighting for Florida’s Future” tax cut package will boost our economy and encourage businesses of all sizes to create jobs and build opportunities for generations of Floridians. Let’s remember, when jobs are created, it helps the poorest, most disadvantaged families who need a job the most. Families just like mine when I was growing up.
One of the taxes we are fighting to cut is the commercial lease tax, which unfairly targets small businesses. Small businesses like Hot Pandeyuca in Miami. David Alfandary opened his small business that specializes in making traditional Colombian baked goods when he first arrived in Miami from Colombia in 1998. The factory started with only three employees and has grown to employ 30 people. However, all three of his locations have a commercial lease. David has said that he is very proud to grow his business in Florida, and if we cut this unfair tax, he could grow his business even more.
Florida is now the only state in the nation to tax commercial leases. Our “Fighting for Florida’s Future” tax cut package will begin to repeal this unfair tax to help small businesses like Hot Pandeyuca. David, you are a great example of the many people living the American Dream right here in Florida. Thank you for fighting to create jobs for future generations.
Even more important than continuing to cut taxes in our state is that we prevent against unfair tax increases in the future so our progress is not undone. My goal before I leave office is that we work together on a solution to make it harder for any future legislature – even one not as conservative as we have here today – to raise taxes.
This year, we also have the privilege to fight for those who have served our country. I am proud to be a Navy veteran and I know that many of you in the Florida Legislature and in the audience also proudly served our nation. Will every veteran and active service member here please stand? Thank you for choosing to serve our nation.
I want to make sure that Florida is the most military and veteran friendly state in the nation and our Budget proposes $102 million to support active military, veterans and their families. And, I am proposing a three-day sales tax holiday for our veterans and active service members.
I would like to introduce you to one of Florida’s brave veterans who would benefit from this sales tax holiday – Master Sergeant George Vera from Tampa. Master Sergeant Vera joined the Army in 1995. Two years ago, suicide bombers invaded his base and detonated an IED. During the explosion, he fought to pull his fellow soldiers away from harm, but unfortunately suffered severe injuries after being shot in the back. Master Sergeant Vera endured a spinal cord injury and is paralyzed. He also suffered a brain injury and lost some of his vital organs. In 2015, he was awarded the Purple Heart for his heroic actions. Master Sergeant Vera, thank you for your service to our great state. You are an inspiration.
I am excited to announce that Master Sergeant Vera, his wife, Angela, and their daughter, Isabella, will soon receive a mortgage free home from Building Homes for Heroes. Since I have taken office, I am proud that we have been able to invest more than $4 million dollars into Building Homes for Heroes and I am proposing $1 million for this important program this year.
We have to do more than just cut taxes to ensure we have a strong economy for the future. We cannot be shortsighted and think we are immune from another national recession in years ahead. We have to keep diversifying our economy and investing in programs that actually help businesses grow jobs here in Florida.
Let me be very direct about this subject. I’ve been on the other side. I’ve run small and large businesses. I’ve been the person who looks at locations, looks at states and compares them, and decides where to expand, where to grow business, where to create jobs. I know exactly how businesses operate, because I’ve done it. For our state to simply say – we are not going to compete with other states, we are not going to make it easier to incentivize job creators to grow in Florida – that’s just a big mistake for our state and for our families. Incentivizing businesses to grow and create more and better jobs is not welfare. And let’s be very clear here – EFI does not provide any funding until jobs are created and capital is invested.
I know what it’s like to be poor. I have lived in poverty. I watched my parents struggle to put food on the table. When most kids were playing Little League or riding bikes, I was working. I had no other choice but to start working when I turned seven. I went from delivering papers to opening a small business so my mom could have a job – to running the nation’s largest health care company that employed hundreds of thousands of individuals. I’ve had to worry about making pay roll and I’ve signed the front of pay checks.
It’s easy to throw out catch phrases like “picking winners and losers” and “corporate welfare.” By the way, I don’t like either of those things. I doubt anyone in this chamber does. But that’s not what we are doing. We are competing with 49 other states and hundreds of countries for jobs. When we bring new jobs to Florida, there are only winners. When we help existing Florida companies grow, there are only winners. When we can help an idea become a business that employs people, there are only winners.
I will admit that it is probably more difficult for people who have never gone hungry, or gone through foreclosure, or seen their family car repossessed to understand this. If you never lived through these experiences, it may be harder to understand the urgency here. I will just leave it like this: I am fighting for our state’s job programs because I am fighting for the families just like mine growing up.
Enterprise Florida has been responsible for over 900 projects since I have been Governor, including helping businesses like Northrup Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Hertz add thousands of high wage jobs in Florida. And, we can easily show a great return on the investment of families’ tax dollars because jobs are being created by more companies moving to our state. When we announced Hertz was moving their corporate headquarters to Florida from New Jersey in 2013 and adding 700 new high-wage jobs, it was the first major relocation by a Fortune 500 company while I have been Governor.
I would like to introduce you to Nick Cid, a Florida native who got a job at Hertz because Enterprise Florida helped relocate the company to our great state. Nick, we are glad you and your family are able to live your dreams in Florida! I want to thank many of you here today who joined me at the Hertz announcement in Southwest Florida including Senator Benacquisto, Leader Rodrigues, Representative Caldwell, Representative Eagle, and Representative Fitzenhagen.
And soon after Hertz moved to Bonita Springs, Herc Rentals decided to move their headquarters to Florida from New Jersey. Herc Rentals has already created over 300 jobs for families in Florida. This is how growing an economy works. You build an environment for companies to be successful and others will join.
I want to be very clear in acknowledging that both Visit Florida and Enterprise Florida have made mistakes along with their many successes over the years. And I do not fault anyone for pointing out those mistakes. Any time we can eliminate government waste we should do it. But, just like we would do in the business world, we have made changes at both agencies so the organizations can be more efficient and transparent. Any CEO or business owner will tell you that mistakes are made sometimes. But, you don’t just give up and shut down, and take your ball and go home. You figure out what the problem is and fix it. Let’s remember, we are talking about people’s jobs and their ability to provide for their family.
Tourism is one of our state’s top sources of revenue, and if that declines, we will set our state on a course for either tax increases or cuts in services. These are the facts. Getting rid of Visit Florida and ending advertising for tourism doesn’t make any sense in the real world. Successful companies know how to market themselves and they don’t stop advertising when business is good. Coca-Cola and Chic Fil A didn’t stop running ads when they reached the top of their industry. Think about it for a minute. Do we really have to argue about how important tourism is to our economy? And do we really need a debate about whether marketing and advertising works?
Visit Florida has been responsible for recruiting record numbers of visitors – including a record of nearly 113 million last year! Will Florida still have tourists if we stop advertising? Sure. But we will have less. And that means less jobs, less tax revenues, and less of everything. When it comes to jobs, I’m for more, not less. Every 76 tourists support one Florida job, and tourism helps thousands of small businesses that rely on visitors. One of these small businesses is Sage Paddle Company started by Sage Offutt. Sage, please stand.
Sage is 14 years old and started her business when she was just 11 after moving to Navarre Beach. Like so many Floridians, Sage loves our beaches and began paddle boarding. But, she quickly saw a need. There were not many places that rented and delivered the boards in her area. So, like any young entrepreneur, she purchased six boards and opened up her business! Today, she has a fleet of 50 boards and 12 kayaks. Sage, young entrepreneurs like you are the future of our state and we will fight for Visit Florida so we can keep helping small businesses like yours.
I have told you why we can’t stop now in our fight for jobs – but we also can’t stop our fight to improve our education system. I am proud that this year that we are able to once again invest historic amounts of funding in K-12 education, state colleges and universities in our budget. We are also fighting to keep higher education affordable by holding the line on tuition for the fourth year in a row, freezing all fees at our state colleges and universities, and capping tuition at our state colleges.
We are also continuing to make historic strides to protect Florida’s lands and ensure that the future of our state’s pristine environment is beautiful for generations to come. Our budget invests nearly $4 billion in our environment, with record funding once again for our springs and funding for the new Indian River Lagoon and Caloosahatchee Clean-Up Initiative.
We are making important investments in public safety, our transportation infrastructure, and investing in our state’s ability to combat the Zika virus. We are also making investments in our states response to disasters. In the past year, we have experienced two hurricanes – something we haven’t experienced in over a decade. This year, I am proposing a nine-day disaster preparedness sales tax holiday so we can make it easier and more affordable for families to prepare before next hurricane season.
And we are making important investments to help people with unique abilities, including $3.3 million in new funding to provide employment services to more than 2,500 individuals with disabilities who are ready to work. There are so many wonderful Florida employers that provide great jobs to people with unique abilities – including HABCO Manufacturing in Boca Raton. HABCO employs 200 Floridians, which include 150 employees with unique abilities. One of HABCO’s leaders is with us today – Linda Cooke. Linda worked to turn HABCO into a multi-million-dollar manufacturing facility so people with unique abilities had the opportunity to get job training and a great career. Linda, thank you for your commitment to helping so many in your community.
The great news is Florida has all the resources we need to make these important investments along with cutting taxes: Since 2011, our state’s economy has grown by 22 percent and our available revenues exceed current expenses by $2.8 billion dollars. Think about that. We have $2.8 billion available while still providing $5 billion dollars in reserves. We have the funds to fight for Florida’s future while controlling spending to ensure we get the best return on the investment of our citizen’s hard-earned tax money.
Let me leave you with this idea – We’ve made a lot of progress here in Florida, but we cannot be happy just staying put. Let’s paint the picture of what we want Florida to look like in the future, and let’s make that future happen. Together, let’s picture Florida as the model for success in the most prosperous country in the world. Together, let’s picture a Florida where instead of the old, closed government economy in Washington, we have a new, innovative and open economy. Together, let’s picture a Florida where instead of an old, closed education system, we have a new and open system where we provide choices and opportunities to every kid regardless of income or zip code. And together, let’s picture a Florida where every single person who wants to work has an opportunity to get a great job. We are getting closer to painting this picture; let’s keep fighting to make it a reality.
Thank you. God bless our great state.