VERO BEACH — Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Scott and his running mate Jennifer Carroll made a whistle stop into Vero Beach Thursday morning with their campaign bus full of staffers, friends and family.
Scott addressed a crowd of about 150-plus members of the local media in the parking lot of Bono’s BBQ on U.S. 1 in Vero Beach at a breakfast hosted by the Indian River County Republican Executive Committee. With only five days ’till the election, the crowd was peppered with local candidates for county and city office taking advantage of the idle 45-minute delay in Scott’s arrival to press the flesh with voters.
Carroll, a Naval veteran and the first African-American woman to be elected to the Florida Legislature, served as the opening act for Scott, thanking supporters and volunteers for their time and service. She seemed to outshine Scott on the stump with her charisma and enthusiasm, a fact that Scott acknowledged when he took the microphone.
“I’m glad I’m not running against her,” he joked.
Scott took some jabs at his opponent, Democrat Alex Sink, by reminding the staunchly Republican audience of Sink’s alignment with President Obama’s policies. Returning power to the local communities, Scott said, is a better plan than implementing sweeping, national programs.
The state government understands that most decisions need to be made locally,” Scott said.
He drew sharp contrasts between Sink’s vision for Florida and his own, without giving very many details, but referring to his “7-7-7Plan” with which he hopes to create 700,000 new jobs over seven years and drag Florida out of the current recession.
The plan, he explained, hinges upon reducing taxes, streamlining government and eliminating roadblocks and red tape which he says prevent private industry from growing the economy.
Former Tax Collector Karl Zimmerman, an active member of the local Tea Party group, said he especially agreed with Scott’s goal of eliminating the need for many permits for businesses to operate and do various things.
“I thought it was a great turnout, it shows that the people of Indian River County support the Scott-Carroll ticket,” Zimmerman said. “They’re real people — mothers, daughters, son in laws.”
Zimmerman said that, although local governments also have their own requirements which may hinder businesses, that the state sets the example by over-regulating through the Department of Community Affairs and the St. John’s River Water Management District. Zimmerman conceded that there is room for easing of bureaucracy even at the local level.
“In fact, we did recommend some reductions of the Tree Protection Ordinance,” Zimmerman said.
One proposal Scott makes is to “reduce property taxes by 19 percent.”
This idea seemed to resonate with the audience as a concept, but the details of Scott’s plan raise more questions than he is able to provide answers.
“It’s my opinion that Rick Scott sounded great and I look forward to his service, but I hope he understands that he has nothing to do with local property taxes,” Commissioner Bob Solari said.
When asked point-blank to explain how exactly he would do this and which agencies he would slash to compensate for this lost revenue, Scott gave a blanket statement.
“I would look at all the agencies,” he said. “If you go to my website, it’s all there in my 7-7-7 plan.”
The website states the following:
“Reduce the statewide property tax (RLE) by $1.4 billion (from 5.29 mills to 4.29 mills, a 19% reduction in RLE). Savings from other key components of my 7 step plan will be used to replace those funds so not $1 is shifted away from our schools.”
There is no detail about how this would be accomplished, or which agencies Scott considers to be the most bloated or wasteful. The website addresses accountability in budgeting in broad strokes, calling for “transparent, outcome-based budgets.”
The state levied portion of the entire property tax bill is tiny compared to taxes assessed by county and city governments and the local School Board. Voters who interpret Scott’s statement that he’ll “reduce property taxes by 19 percent” may be disappointed when they read the fine print of the plan.
“A 1 mill reduction results in approximately a $142 savings for the average homeowner,” the website states.
How Scott intends to accomplish this tax reduction, balance the budget and not impact Florida’s public school system is yet to be explained.