Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

Scott 'gets to work' on fulfilling campaign promises

Rick Scott waves with Mickey and Minnie Mouse during a welcoming ceremony his first week in office aboard the new $900 million Disney Dream cruise ship in Port Canaveral.
Rick Scott waves with Mickey and Minnie Mouse during a welcoming ceremony his first week in office aboard the new $900 million Disney Dream cruise ship in Port Canaveral.

Gov. Rick Scott ended his inauguration speech by repeating his trademark phrase, "Let's get to work."

And, nearly three weeks into his fledgling administration, he has.

PolitiFact Florida launched the Scott-O-Meter on Jan. 1 to track and monitor  Scott’s campaign promises . The Scott-O-Meter started with 56 promises, but already has added two more.

How has Scott done ?

Without the Legislature in session until March, it has been difficult for Scott to deliver on most of his promises. Similarly, it has been hard for him to break a promise. But Scott has advanced several major pledges -- to sell the state airplane, to not take a salary and to try to crack down on illegal immigration. 

"Everything I said in the campaign, I'm going to work every day to get those things done," Scott told a group of reporters in Tallahassee Jan. 19.

Here's a snapshot of the new governor's progress.

Money making things possible

Scott, who reported a net wealth of more than $218 million in June, pledged not to take the governor's annual salary of $130,273.

He kept that promise two days after taking office, announcing he would take a salary of only $0.01. The penny is a technicality more than anything -- a way for him to be recorded in the state personnel system. Scott, a former hospital CEO, also is paying his own health care costs. We rated that Scott promise a Promise Kept -- his first.

Scott also pledged to sell the state airplane, another promise made possible by his massive wealth since he plans to use his own plane for gubernatorial traveling.

Well, it turns out to be two planes -- and it's not as simple as Scott simply listing them on eBay, Sarah Palin-style. While the state owns one plane, it leases the other. The state would have to buy out the lease in order to complete the "sale" of the fleet.
 
On top of that, there is some debate over who needs to approve the sale. The governor by himself? The Cabinet? The entire Legislature? It's unclear if that will be settled by Feb. 9, when bids for the planes are scheduled to be opened.

It's likely that the state fleet -- which has an annual $2.4 million budget -- is on its way out of Tallahassee. But until the planes are off the state books, we rated this promise In the Works.

Regulation freeze gets chilly reception

Scott took office on an anti-regulation crusade, making one of his first official acts an executive order that suspended all rulemaking for agencies under the direction of the governor.

The governor's office declared the executive order a fulfillment of a campaign promise to "freeze all regulations."

But the regulation freeze applied only to agencies under Scott's control, not the agencies controlled jointly by the Cabinet or headed by Cabinet members. All three Cabinet members say they will not comply with the terms of Scott's regulation freeze -- though all are reviewing regulations.

"We are not sending our rules to the governor's office" for approval, said Sterling Ivey, a spokesman for Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam. "We are looking at all of our rules internally to make sure they align with the direction the commissioner wants to go with the department."

Scott promised to freeze all regulations, but upon taking office, he faced a grim reality: He can't direct the practices of the entire state government. So we rated a Compromise.

Immigration tough talk

Scott has made progress on two immigration-related promises -- though their ultimate fates are very much in question.

He promised to bring an Arizona-style immigration law to Florida that would require local law enforcement officials, once they stop a person, to verify the immigration status of anyone they reasonably suspect of being in the country illegally.

A bill has been filed in the Senate, and one is coming in the House, enough activity to be rated a promise In the Works.

Scott also said he wanted to require all Florida employers to use the federal, free E-Verify system to check the immigration status of workers. He issued an executive order on his first day of office requiring the agencies he controls to use the E-Verify system -- though it turns out many agencies already are.

The Orlando Sentinel asked Scott about his E-Verify pledge during a campaign stop on Jan. 13. "One of my executive orders was that all state agencies would use E-Verify. And right now I'm satisfied with that," he said.

While that sounds like some backpedaling, the governor's office insists Scott hasn't. We rated this promise In the Works. For now.

The promise: Jobs, jobs jobs

Of the 58 promises we're tracking, we have rated one Promise Kept, one Compromise and seven In the Works. That leaves 49 promises Not Yet Rated.

The biggest promise of them all is Scott's pledge to create 700,000 private sector jobs.

We're a long way from reaching a conclusion on that promise, but it hasn't stopped Scott from saying he's made progress.

On Jan. 18, Scott traveled to Destin to participate in an announcement that Atlanta-based charter airline outfit, Vision Airlines, was significantly expanding its Florida service. Though the expansion was in the works for six months, Scott seized on an economic impact study that said Vision will bring 4,200 "direct and indirect" jobs to Florida, citing research by Northwest Florida State College.

"The way I look at it, if I could do about 150 of those, then I get to my 700,000 jobs," Scott said. (Actually, he'd need to do it 166 times.)

Aaron Sharockman can be reached at asharockman@sptimes.com or (727) 892-2273.