State Politics

Scott asks lawmakers for ideas

TAMPA -- A week before he will be sworn in as Florida’s 45th governor, Rick Scott brought his boardroom brand of politics here Tuesday during a meeting with 16 lawmakers from the Tampa Bay area.

The hour-long meeting at the Hilton near Tampa International Airport resembled a company executive session, as Scott sat at the head of a circle of tables and solicited ideas.

Scott, who mostly listened and took notes during the meeting, faced a potpourri of issues -- Republicans complained about burdensome regulations, Democrats worried about the effect of a revived comprehensive teacher pay bill, and nearly every lawmaker pleaded for more jobs.

Scott is under the gun to fulfill a campaign promise of creating 700,000 new jobs over seven years. That’s on top of the roughly 1 million new jobs state economists predict will come without any new policies.

The governor-elect already has faced heat for a report by his transition team that recommends cutting of unemployment checks for people who don’t work hard enough to find work. An economics professor at Princeton University has been critical of the report, saying it misinterpreted an unemployment study he did.

Scott said he’s glad the federal government has offered $2 billion for the rail plan, but he is waiting to see a February feasibility study about construction costs, operating costs and whether businesses will support the Orlando to Tampa project.

The discussion was tempered by Rep. Seth McKeel, R-Lakeland, who warned that Florida’s budget hole could grow to $3.5 billion next year. “If anyone thinks that’s going to be a small task, they’re wrong,” he said.