Governor Rick Scott gets tough questioning during visit to Department of Corrections

Feb 21, 2011

The following article was published in The Florida Current on February21, 2011:

Scott gets tough questioning during visit to the Department of Corrections

By Brent Henzi

Gov. Rick Scott has proposed major cuts to the Department of Corrections, but on Monday he told department staff he is right there behind them, offering his support.

Scott has proposed cutting nearly 1,700 jobs and $82.4 million from the department.

Sounding like someone who had not just recently fired 15 DOC executives, Scott said things like “your job is not the easiest job in the world,” and Florida has “great public safety.”

“I look forward to doing anything I can to support you and back you up,” said Scott.

The crowd, however, wasn’t quite as welcoming when Scott opened it up to questions. One employee asked, while state employees have not received a raise in five years and have been “asked to do more with less … what have you required the wealthiest Floridians to contribute to the state deficit?” The question also received a round of applause.

Scott responded that Florida needs to attract more businesses by lowering regulations and taxes for companies. He said overhead costs have to decline in state government, and that it is “an inherent expectation” for employees to be more productive every year.

“Your overhead has to come down each and every year … and that has not happened in state government,” said Scott.

The governor was also grilled about state employee pension reform. He responded that two things need to happen: those that are recently hired need to know that there will be something there for them when they retire, and that the pension system has to be fair for taxpayers.

He said that state employees should contribute 5 percent to their pension plans, and that the state simply can’t afford the DROP program. He also noted that not only the state’s pension system, but other programs also must be sustainable to be successful.

“My job is to make sure that every program that is involved is a program people can rely on to be there, and I believe that about the pension plan, I believe that about unemployment insurance, I believe that about Medicaid,” he said.