Scott to state workers: My focus is private jobs

TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday told the state employees whose jobs may be among the most vulnerable to budget cuts that his focus is on creating private sector jobs and their agency is one he heard complaints about while campaigning last fall.

Scott spoke to Department of Community Affairs employees, many of whom could be out of work if Scott carries out his proposal to place the agency’s functions under the Department of Environmental Protection. He said he’d do whatever he could to help them find jobs elsewhere in government.

But he also said the agency, which enforces the state’s growth-management laws, is part of the problem when it comes to attracting businesses to Florida.

“On the campaign trail, all they wanted to complain about is how fast you guys did permitting for growth management,” said Scott, who added in the same breath that he also hears that the employees do great work.

One employee was concerned he might be laid off with six months to go before reaching full retirement. Another had concerns about the level of unemployment compensation laid-off employees could expect. And one worker questioned whether Scott’s proposal to cut corporate income taxes would actually create jobs rather than just line the pockets of business owners.

The Republican governor said his top goal is creating private-sector jobs and that government needs to shrink in size and cost. The state also needs to get rid of regulations that make it more difficult to do business.

That’s why Texas is doing better than Florida at attracting businesses, Scott said.

“Story after story when I was running, they’d say, ‘I wanted to expand in Florida, but you know what? Texas was so much easier. I couldn’t get an answer in Florida, I got an answer in two days in Texas,”’ said Scott, a businessman who spent nearly $80 million of his and his wife’s money to get elected.

Ken Reecy, who is six months shy of 30 years of state service, said he was concerned how a layoff combined with changes in the pension plan might effect people so close to retirement. He asked the governor if there would be protections for people in his situation. Scott said that he hadn’t thought about it, but he would.

Later, Reecy was asked by a reporter if people at his agency were particularly concerned about losing jobs because of the governor’s consolidation plans. A department spokesman interrupted the interview and said Scott’s office told the agency not to talk about the subject.

Thomas Robinson, a Division of Emergency Management employee who was at the event, wasn’t afraid to share his thoughts.

“I don’t know any state worker in any agency that’s not concerned,” he said. “When you keep hearing that the problem is government and you work in government, why should you feel secure?”