Fla. Gov.-elect Scott begins inaugural celebration

Published: Monday, January 3, 2011 at 3:21 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 3, 2011 at 3:21 p.m.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — In many ways Republican Rick Scott's two-day inaugural celebration is a return to tradition: lunches and dinners, a prayer breakfast, a parade, open house at the governor's mansion and a ball.

But once the parties and pomp are over, expect his traditional ways to end.

Scott, who spent tens of millions of dollars of his own money to win a bitter election, is a political outsider who ran against the so-called Tallahassee insiders.

The former hospital company CEO believes there's room to cut the budget in a state where politicians say they've cut just about all they can. He also wants to get rid of the corporate income tax, which provides Florida with about $2 billion a year, just two years after Gov. Charlie Crist and the Legislature raised taxes and fees by $2 billion to help meet budget needs.

"You knew what you were voting for, you knew what I was going to do," Scott said in a recent interview. "I'm not going to surprise anybody."

In a nutshell, he says he's going to reduce the size of government, force agencies to cut costs, review every state regulation and question why it exists, speed up the process and get rid of uncertainty for project approvals, and gradually eliminate the corporate income tax to entice more businesses to Florida.

"Sometimes it takes greater pain to get relief from pain," said lobbyist Ron Book. "We've got some pain yet that we're all going to suffer."

Book said Scott has created thousands of jobs and his business experience and a different approach is needed to turn around Florida's economy.

"We needed a different style of leadership to get us out of where we're at and he's going to provide that," Book said. "He's obsessed and laser-like focused on how to get this deal done."

But that is the agenda for after Tuesday's inauguration. On Monday, the focus was more on celebrating the victory and paying tribute to others.

A morning breakfast honored women in leadership, including Jennifer Carroll, who will be sworn in Tuesday as Florida's first black lieutenant governor and the first woman elected to the position, and Republican Pam Bondi, who will become the first woman to serve as Florida's attorney general."

"This is the beginning, we are going to turn the state around, there is no question," Scott said after praising Carroll and Bondi. "We're also going to make this a place where it doesn't matter whether you're male or female, whether you are black or white, whatever. You have every opportunity to do whatever you want to do, whether it's be governor, whether it's be a successful business person or a successful lawyer, physician — anything is possible if we do the right thing."

A luncheon to pay tribute to Ann Scott, the next Florida first lady, was also planned, as was a tribute to the military and a dinner for business leaders.

After a Tuesday prayer breakfast, the inauguration will begin at 11 a.m. in front of the historic Capitol. A "Let's Get to Work" luncheon for business leaders, a parade and an open house at the governor's mansion will follow. The final event is a $95 per ticket ball.

And though Scott criticized the influence of special interests during his campaign, major Florida companies are helping to foot the bill of his inaugural celebration.

In all, Scott's team raised about $3 million in private donations for the event. Several dozen companies gave the upper limit of $25,000 including U.S. Sugar Corp.; Huizenga Holdings, Inc.; Progress Energy; Disney Worldwide Services, Inc.; AT&T Services, Inc.; and the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

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