Fresh off signing a $77 billion budget into law, Gov. Rick Scott made a pit stop in Panama City Monday as part of his Let's Keep Small Business Working Tour and campaign for re-election.
Under the goal to make Florida the number one state for small business, Scott cited 600,000 private sector jobs added, $500 million in business tax cuts and more than 3,000 regulations cut during his time in office.
"I've been in small business; I've lived the American Dream," said Scott, citing hard times for his family growing up. "I've lived in public housing. I had wonderful parents, they just had a hard time keeping jobs. I know what that's like. I know how hard it is to start a business."
With the downtown screen printing business Ink Trax as the backdrop, several local politicians and community leaders touted Scott's efforts to grow jobs and decrease regulations for small businesses in the state and accused Scott's opponent, former Gov. Charlie Crist, of doing the opposite while in office.
"When you put a businessman in office, it does make a difference," said Panama City Mayor Greg Brudnicki. "Gov. Scott recognized that we had to be diversified as a state. ... We know that we can't just depend on tourism; we can't just depend on one or two or three sectors, we need it all."
State Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City, also commended Scott for his efforts in helping businesses grow and expand in Florida.
"Gov. Scott has been in corporate America; he understands logistics," Patronis said. "He can look at a business model and know which company could do well in Florida and which one couldn't."
Patronis cited a recent announcement by Hertz Rental Cars regarding plans to move its headquarters from New Jersey to Florida.
"Florida has got an incredible climate, it's got a great job environment, a great quality of life and in addition to that, it's got no state income tax," Patronis said. "The cost of living that we have here in Bay County and the rest of the state makes it a very attractive place for businesses to relocate."
State Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, described Scott as "the jobs governor."
"The big difference between Rick Scott and his opponent in this election is that Rick Scott believes that the best way to support small business is to help small business grow and get bigger," he said. "The other side, they think they support small business, but they support policies that keep businesses small."
During the rally, Crist also came under fire several times for being a "flip-flop" politician.
State Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, described Crist's idea for a moral compass as a "wet finger in the wind."
"He lied to all of us and told us he was a Ronald Reagan/ Jeb Bush Republican," Gaetz said. "Then he lied to the independents and said he was one of them ... now he's lying to the Democrats and telling him he's one of them and wants to hug Barack Obama and endorse all his policies."
Copyright 2014 - The News Herald, Panama City, Fla.