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'It's working,' Rick Scott says in State of the State address

TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott delivered an upbeat State of the State address to the Legislature Tuesday, declaring that his policies are working and Florida’s economy is strong enough to give a generous pay raise to teachers.

In a speech that opened the 2013 legislative session, Scott sounded eager to run for re-election on his record, despite polls showing he’s among the most unpopular governors in the country.

He cited reductions in unemployment, the first budget surplus in six years and repeatedly used the phrase “it’s working,” which sounded like a refrain of the “Let’s get to work” slogan that got him elected in 2010.

“Two years ago, we met together facing crippling debt, record-high unemployment and a downward spiral of job losses,” Scott said. “Our unemployment rate is nearly down to the national average and we’re not stopping here. It’s working.”

Scott placed the greatest importance on paying teachers more money. It’s a goal intended to rebrand him as an ally of public education, not the tea party favorite of two years ago who demanded a 10 percent cut in school spending.

“Teachers change lives,” Scott said.

Florida’s teachers are among the lowest paid in the country. Legislative leaders have not endorsed Scott’s proposal for a $2,500 across-the-board teacher pay hike, and prefer that pay hikes are awarded on merit. That means Scott will have to engage in some behind-the-scenes arm-twisting on the issue.

“We don’t want a war on teachers. We want a war on failure,” Scott said. “An investment in Florida teachers is an investment in Florida’s future."

Full story at

Steve Bousquet, Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau