Governor Rick Scott is much underrated nowadays. We are told that he is unpopular yet, based on the issues that he ran on and delivered in his first year in office, he has done exceedingly well even among Democrats, and the critically important Independents and Ticket-Splitter voters.
Of course this is not conventional wisdom, but according to a poll taken after last year’s legislative session (August 2011) by Associated Industries of Florida, Governor Scott’s agenda is striking a very responsive chord among voters (www.aif.com/press_release/2011/FLAIF_08_11_Scott_Release.pdf). Of his top four issues: $200 million of Property Tax Reductions, State Workers Pension Contribution Reform, Teacher Tenure Reform and Drug Testing for Welfare Recipients, he has hit a solid Grand Slam. Among Dem’s, the lowest amount of support was surprisingly on drug testing in which still more than 6 out of 10 Democrats supported the Governor and the highest support was 74% for Property Tax Reductions. Independents and Ticket-Splitters (voters who switch party per race) ranged from a low of 73% on Teacher Tenure – unheard of here in Tallahassee, home to the teachers union to an incredibly high of better than 3 out of every four voters (76%) on Teacher Tenure and almost 8 out of every ten voters (78.5%) on Drug Testing! So, when teachers unions sue, or labor unions go to court they are just reinforcing their unpopular positions of which only a distinct minority of even Democrats support them statewide. Check out the numbers and the crosstabs as they tell a story of a businessman turned Governor who has the voters of Florida with him on these core issues– wholeheartedly.
This session, the Governor is once again taking on issues that will matter most to the voters such as PIP Auto Insurance Reform and importantly reform of Citizens Insurance Company. Since he first started running for office about 20 months ago, the Governor in defiance of our last one has consistently been preaching for reform of the Property & Casualty Insurance marketplace – the need to bring back some balance and common sense. Legislation moving through the House and Senate this year will do just that.
Citizens is the largest p & c insurance company in the state. It has more liabilities than assets and it buys more reinsurance from Florida’s CAT Fund than anyone else. The CAT Fund, ably managed by Dr. Jack Nicholson, on the other hand is consistently well-managed, but is weakened by the problems in America’s bond market. The CAT Fund can barely cover one hurricane per year, yet is legally required to cover two per season! It is a recipe for disaster and in an admittedly worse-case scenario could even bankrupt the state. Unfortunately, the solution will require rates to go up for coastal residents but it’s time that their subsidization by in-land residents begins to start declining. We need to go further, such as limiting how much longer high-income beach residents will get unreasonably low insurance rates without mitigating or hardening their homes. A time limit will force these homeowners to take action thus limiting the taxes on all of our insurance policies when Citizens cannot fund their entire losses. For those that cannot afford to harden their home, we need to find a public-private solution.
Education funding is an area where Governor Scott has listened to voters and is moving to increase per-child spending. I’m happy that we as Floridians are willing to pay more; but we should also demand more as well. We should demand that social promotion be entirely wiped out and we should admit to ourselves that all children aren’t excited for post-secondary – and we couldn’t afford them all anyway. Let’s make sure each child has a “plan” once they graduate and we will quickly learn who wants to stay in school and who wants to go to work. We should expect our astronomically high reading program investments to pay higher dividends in PreK-12 and accordingly we should see our multi-million dollar remedial education bill at state colleges and universities start to decrease. If this doesn’t happen, and it hasn’t so far, then we need better solutions so that our children can compete in this extremely competitive world.
So, the next time that someone tells you that Rick Scott is unpopular, just remember that Floridians overwhelmingly like his major policies and that the detractor may just be someone whose ox is finally getting gored.
Barney Bishop III is President and CEO of Barney Bishop Consulting, LLC. He is a life-long Democrat with conservative fiscal views and moderate social positions. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org