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Interview with Florida's Gov. Rick Scott

On what drives his sense of mission:
My father was a truck driver. My parents struggled their whole life. I got breaks. I worked hard. I got an education. I got to build companies and basically lived the dream that we all think about. .... But if you come from that background, you see where the country should be going. ... At the federal level, the state level, the county level, money is being squandered, and there is a day of reckoning. And so my concern is that if we don't have people that really believe in the free market, who really believe in the America that I grew up in, you know, we're not going to have any job creation.

On the most important thing he's learned about state government?
It's not been different than what I thought. It's like business. You need to surround yourself with really smart people that want to work very hard. You have to be very disciplined. You have to stay focused on what you believe in. You have to measure everything.

On creating jobs:
I look at jobs — it's what I called the axis of unemployment, it's taxation, litigation, regulation. So how do I make sure there are some logical regulations, but how do we not have regulations that are a job-killer? That's one. Two, how do we make sure that we spend the dollars as well as we can. Three, taxes. Make sure they're fair. And then four, let's make sure we have lawsuit reform so we eliminate frivolous lawsuits.

On economic initiatives targeting specific industries:

Gov. Rick Scott
[Photo: Jon M. Fletcher]
I believe that government does a very poor job of choosing who's going to win. My job is to make this a state that whether you're opening up a Starbucks, whether you're opening up an amusement park, whether you're opening up a high-technology company, you say, 'This is the place I want to do business.' ... The truth is you're going to have a variety of jobs, and we're going to grow in tourism, we're going to grow in ag, we're going to grow in military, we're going to grow in high-tech because people want to live here.

I want to diversify our economy, but I want to look at returns. I like new projects. That's what I've done with my life, I've built companies. But I do know that if you want to have long-term success, don't waste dollars. Get a return for the taxpayers.

On education:
What the state's funding for education, we'll keep funding. My goal is through measurement to try and get that money spent better. The other thing on education is I'm going to do what I can to continue to allow good growth of charter schools. I just want to create more competition.

On Medicaid:
I'm going to expand managed care in Medicaid because I think the state's not a good buyer of services. I think third parties who are in that business can do a better job of making sure that the money is spent well, so I'm going to be doing that, but there's no really big cuts.

On his management style and running state government:
I'm not going to spread myself thin by doing, by having 100 different priorities. My priority is education and jobs.

You don't get anything done yourself. You get things done with other people. I know that my success will be tied to if we have great people in state government that believe in what I believe in. You've got to make sure that people understand why you're doing it.

People in government work very hard. The processes that we have set up, the limitations that we put on people working in state government, don't make sense. I think we create the wrong incentives.

On social service agencies like the Department of Children and Families:
We need to have safety nets. There's people that need services at times, and I want to do the best job we can do while people need those services. But as a general rule, I want to create an environment where we do such a good job at creating jobs that the need for state services goes down. And the only way you do it is help people get a job.

On jobs and work:
The way I think about life is how I've done my priorities. One is education, because I know you've got to get a great education or you won't get very far in life. Two, you've got to get a job. ... That's what changed my life. I didn't start out with great jobs. I worked as an 85-cent-an-hour fry cook, I delivered papers for a penny a paper, I cleaned telephone booths, I worked at amusement parks, I cleaned latrines ... and worked at the mess deck when I was in the Navy. I had all sorts of jobs. They're all important jobs. And I respect everybody that does any job in this state.

On reassuring those concerned about the environment that development interests won't run roughshod:
I like fishing, I like hunting, I like being outside, so I clearly care, if anybody looks at my background, I clearly care about those issues. ... I feel very comfortable that the people I'm putting in place care about this state, clearly care about the environment.

On Florida Forever:
I care about making sure that we take care of our environment and whether that's the private sector taking care of our environment or the state taking care or the counties taking care of our environment. ... So it's something that we'll focus on and then my job is partially to allocate how we spend those dollars.

On immigration and Florida's responsibility to the children of immigrants:
Step one, the federal government needs to make sure we have secure borders and we as citizens are comfortable that our borders are secure. Second, we need to have a policy that ... is built on legal immigration, that people can come into our country and that we decide who comes into our country. Then I think we also need to make sure that the people coming in are people who can get jobs here because our employers are not going to grow if we don't have the right jobs or the right people for the jobs. With regard to children, they are citizens of our country.

On Citizens and the state's property insurance market:
I put out a plan in the campaign ... to move Citizens to an insurer of last resort. It's one of the things we'll be working through this session, to make sure that we start moving Citizens in that direction and attract private companies to come back here. We have to have a regulatory environment that they feel comfortable with, that they're going to get treated fairly, and we've got to make sure that they're viable, financially viable.

On the governor's job:
This is the best job. It's a ball.